Sharapova and Serena Battle for Olympic Tennis Gold
2012 London Summer Olympics
Maria Sharapova of Russia and Serena Williams of the United States have sealed a blockbuster gold-medal showdown after defeating separate semifinal rivals in the women's tennis event at London Olympics.
Both players are eyeing to become the second player to achieve a career Golden Grand Slam, behind Germany's Steffi Graf, who who won gold at Seoul in 1988.
Sharapova was first to advance to the championship round after winning the all-Russian semifinal over No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, 6-2 6-3 in one hour and 29 minutes.
"Obviously it's tough to play a Russian on the other side of the net, but I'm happy that one of us can go for gold," said Sharapova, who hit 35 winners compared to Kirilenko's seven.
"I knew this was going to be a really tough match. My previous meeting against Maria was really tough - she had so many chances to win that match. And she has been having such a great grass court season, getting to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon," she added.
The No.4-seeded Williams followed suit with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over top seed Victoria Azarenka in just 63 minutes. Williams hit 33 winners and five unforced errors compared to just 12 winners and unforced by Azarenka.
Sharapova has completed her collection of Grand Slam trophies by winning the the Australian Open in 2008, the French Open this year, Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006.
Williams, for her part, has won 14 Grand Slam titles -- five Australian Opens (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010), one French Open (2002), five Wimbledons (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012) and three US Opens (1999, 2002 and 2008).
"It's been amazing to achieve what I have achieved. Obviously growing up you have big dreams and hopes of winning your certain favorite tournaments. I've been fortunate to win all the Grand Slams, and obviously this is my first Olympics, so I'm just thrilled to be in the finals," said Sharapova, who will return to No. 1 if she wins the gold medal.
"I really look forward to playing Maria. I haven't played her in a while. "We always have good matches. She has improved so much. It will be interesting. She's ranked higher than I am so, again, I have nothing to lose," said Williams, who leads Sharapova in their head-to-head series, 8-2, and has won their last seven meetings in a row.
Azarenka and Kirilenko will play the bronze medal match. They are tied in their head-to-head, 2-2, though Azarenka has won their last two in straight sets.
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