London: Maria Sharapova will have the chance to turn the tables on China’s Li Na on Sunday when they clash in the final of the Edgbaston grasscourt tournament.
Sharapova, who fell in love with the relaxed club in Birmingham’s suburbs in 2004 when she won the title before moving on to triumph at Wimbledon, beat American Alison Riske 6-2 4-6 6-1 in Saturday’s semi-finals.
Top seed Li Na beat Aravane Rezai, the fourth seed from France, 6-1 3-6 6-3.
“It’ll be good to play her again,” Russian Sharapova, who lost to the Chinese player in the semi-finals last year, told reporters. “A year makes a big difference.
“I certainly don’t like losing to the same person twice in a row -- I’m a big competitor. I’m certainly going to try to turn that around.”
Sharapova is beginning to look like the player that won three grand slam titles and powered to the top of the rankings before a serious shoulder problem kept her out of the game for nine months in 2008-09.
Back at 17th in the rankings after drifting outside the top 100 early last year, she belted the ball around the slick grasscourts on Saturday and looks in good shape as Wimbledon approaches.
There is obviously nothing wrong with her shoulder either after she cracked down a serve at 121mph, the fastest one she has hit in her career.
“I played a very good opponent today, who played really well,” Sharapova, gunning for a third title here, said. “I came through in the end and played good tennis. My game is trying to attack.
“If I’m doing it well, I should be winning the majority of my matches and that definitely gives you confidence.”
Sharapova seemed completely in control against qualifier Riske, ranked down at 185, but she lost her way in the second set before regaining control of her youthful opponent.
“I had one sloppy game in the second set and let her back into the match and credit to her she did a great job of executing that set,” Sharapova said.
“I definitely had to change a few things around in the third set and step it up a bit.”