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Sharapova sets up final date with Serena

MIAMI, Mar 29, 2013, Agencies: 3:00 IST

Murray to face Gasquet in mens final

Hard-hitting: Maria Sharapova returns during her win over Agnieszka Radwanska. AFP photo
Maria Sharapova will face Serena Williams in the final of the Sony Open while Britain's Andy Murray will take on France's Richard Gasquet in the men's semifinals after grinding down Croatian Marin Cilic.

World number one Williams needed just 65 minutes to deal with fourth seeded defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3, while Sharapova, who won at Indian Wells earlier this month, demolished Serbia's Jelena Jankovic 6-2 6-1.

Sharapova, extended her winning streak to 11 matches with a lopsided win in just over an hour against Jankovic, a former world number one struggling to regain her best.

Despite Sharapova's good form, Williams will start as clear favourite in Saturday's final - she is 11-2 in meetings with the Russian and has won the last 10 matches between the pair.

Williams, seeking a record sixth Miami title, is relishing the chance of taking on the woman directly below her in the world rankings.

"I love playing her. I love seeing her on the opposite side because she just brings out a good game. I just like the challenge of playing someone who has made history and who is doing so well," the American told reporters.

"She's been playing awesome. I definitely expect a tough match,’’ Williams added.
One of just 10 women to have won all four Grand Slams, Sharapova has been collecting titles all over the world but has never won the Sony Open, played in her "home" state of Florida, despite reaching four previous finals.

"It would mean so much to me," she said in a courtside interview. "I love this city. It's the first city I landed in when I came to the United States as a little girl,’’ Sharapova added.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray advanced to the semifinals on Thursday, defeating ninth seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3 in Miami.

The second-seeded Murray rallied from a break down twice in the first set and went on to convert six of his 18 break point chances to clinch the victory in one hour and 42 minutes. The Scot improved to 8-1 against Cilic to reach his 20th semifinal at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.

“I think today was probably the best match for me,” declared Murray. “It was a tough, tough match. The second set especially was a lot of long, long games and tough points. I just managed to come through that. Obviously, it took a while to get to the finish line, but I thought I played a solid match, (with) not too many errors and was tough in the important moments.”

Murray is bidding to lift his first Masters 1000 trophy since 2011, when he successfully defended his crown in Shanghai. The 25-year-old has appeared in the title match at Crandon Park twice, beating Novak Djokovic in 2009 and finishing runner-up to the Serbian last year. Should he go on to triumph, Murray will overtake Roger Federer at World No 2 in the ATP Rankings.

For a place in the final, Murray will face eighth seed Richard Gasquet. The World No 10 beat 2010 runner-up and fourth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3 in 74 minutes. Gasquet crafted a clean performance, hitting 17 winners to 10 unforced errors and breaking serve three times to avenge his defeat to the Czech in the round of 16 at Indian Wells. He improved to 5-3 against Berdych in their head-to-head series.

Gasquet was solid, hitting 17 winners and breaking serve three times as his 6-3, 6-3 victory easily made up for his defeat to the same opponent in the round of 16 at Indian Wells.

The Frenchman knows he will be the underdog against Murray, with the Briton holding a 4-3 head-to-head advantage, but believes he is capable of producing an upset.

"I can win against Andy. He's the favourite, the number three in the world but I know his game, I know how he plays," he said.

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