Sharapova wins Brisbane title; Federer set for a milestone
BRISBANE, Australia — Maria Sharapova claimed her 34th career title and closed the gap on the No. 1 ranking with a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 win over Ana Ivanovic on Saturday in the Brisbane International final.
Top-seeded Sharapova raced to a 4-1 lead and had set points in the 11th game but No. 2-seeded Ivanovic fought back to take the hour-long set in a tiebreaker.
Sharapova earned early service breaks in the next two sets and held for victory, giving her the chance to overhaul Serena Williams for top spot in the rankings depending on results at the Australian Open, starting Jan. 19.
"I played four good matches against very different types of opponents. Couldn’t have asked for better preparation," Sharapova said, playing down the importance of the rankings. "Now that I won a tournament, maybe I have a better chance of going higher in the ranking. Right now I am No. 2; the next spot is 1."
Roger Federer has a chance to go into the Australian Open with 1,000 career match wins to his credit after beating fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday to reach the final of the Brisbane International.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion came into the 2015 season with 996 wins and has had three more on the way to Sunday’s final, where he’ll meet third-seeded Milos Raonic. He has a 7-1 win-loss record against the 24-year-old Canadian, who served 34 aces to grind out a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) win over second-seeded Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal.
"It’s a goal for the season, so I still have time to get to a thousand," Federer said, smiling. "I mean, it’s a really big number, no doubt about it. Love to get it tomorrow, especially in the finals in an ATP event where most of my wins have come.
"If not tomorrow, I hope it happens at the Australian Open. It would definitely be an incredible milestone to reach."
Only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl have won more than 1,000 matches.
"They were very consistent for a long time, very match tough, and definitely players and athletes you could look up to because their longevity was incredible," the 33-year-old Federer said. "It would mean a lot to get to a thousand, but they’re still ahead of me."
The third-seeded Raonic appeared to grow in confidence as the match progressed against U.S. Open finalist Nishikori, earning three match points with an ace in the third tiebreaker and then clinching it after 2 1/2 hours with a stunning forehand service return.
Raonic said he’ll be relying again on his serve, hoping to emulate the form that earned a win over Federer in Paris last year.
"That’s always been a key. Last few matches I started poorly. I would get broken right in my first service game, which is not the way to really go about things, especially against a top player and especially against Roger," he said. "So I’ve got to keep that pressure on him and then sort of step up when I can create my opportunities."
It was his second win in six matches against Nishikori. Neither player dropped serve in the match, meaning Nishikori exited the tournament without being broken in a service game.
Eventually, though, the quick points Raonic was able to pick up on his booming serve made the difference.
Venus Williams won her first title of the year when she recovered from a set and a break down for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the ASB Classic at Auckland, New Zealand.
Her sister, Serena Williams, missed a chance to win a third Hopman Cup title when she and U.S. teammate John Isner lost 2-1 to Poland in the final at Perth.
The No. 1-ranked Williams finished off a rusty week with losses in the singles and the doubles on Saturday night.
Agnieszka Radwanska gave Poland the lead with a 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1 win in the women’s singles before Isner leveled the final with a 7-6 (10), 6-4 win over Jerzy Janowicz.
Radwanska and Janowicz combined to win the deciding doubles match 7-5, 6-3 to claim the title in the annual international mixed team competition.