Maria Sharapova was outright dominant when it mattered most on Thursday at the 2013 French Open, taking out rival Victoria Azarenka in a thrilling three-set match, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, according to the tournament's official Twitter account:
The defending French Open champion, Sharapova cruised through the opening set, winning easily in under half an hour. Azarenka would own the second set, however, forcing a third and final set.
After brief rain showers forced adjustments from both players, it was Sharapova maintaining her poise and surviving a late rally from Azarenka to win the hour-long final set, 6-4.
Here's how it all unfolded on Court Philippe Chatrier on Thursday.
Sharapova Starts Fast
Despite being broken on in the very first game, Sharapova kept her cool and recovered, breaking Azarenka right back and then holding serve to pull ahead 2-1 early on, per Roland Garros:
Sharapova wouldn't let up, breaking Azarenka twice more and serving out the set to win the opening frame 6-1. The Russian star won 60 percent of her service points in the set and an astounding 81 percent of her receiving points (13-of-16).
While Azarenka looked a little flat at times in the opening set, Sharapova was incredibly sharp, converting on 11 winners and winning 25 of the 36 total points in less than half an hour, per Roland Garros:
Azarenka Bounces Back
In the second set, both players came out with plenty of energy, especially Azarenka, who built some much-needed momentum. Each held serve through the first five games before Azarenka broke Sharapova in the sixth game to go ahead 4-2 in the set, per Roland Garros:
Azarenka held serve in the seventh game to pull ahead 5-2 and within one game of forcing a deciding third set.
Azarenka broke Sharapova in the very next game, winning the final four games of the set to close it out 6-2 after a double fault from Sharapova, per Roland Garros:
The set was a complete turnaround from the first set for both players. Sharapova only won 28 percent of her receiving points for the frame, and Azarenka belted eight winners to just three unforced errors.
Sharapova Displays Heart of a Champion
Rain forced both players off the court and into the locker room following the conclusion of the second set, per Roland Garros:
After a brief delay, both players returned to Court Philippe Chatrier to begin the deciding set.
Sharapova found herself with an early break point in the first game of the third set, but she missed her chance as Azarenka held to take a 1-0 lead in the decider, per Roland Garros:
But just when it looked as if Azarenka had seized momentum, Sharapova battled back, holding serve and then breaking her rival to take a 2-1 advantage, per Roland Garros:
Sharapova failed to capitalize on her early success, though, double-faulting to give away the game and level the set at two games apiece. Surprisingly, Sharapova took over shortly after, winning the next three games to take a 5-2 advantage.
Azarenka responded, however, breaking Sharapova and holding serve to narrow the gap to 5-4.
But with a second opportunity to serve out the match, Sharapova delivered, winning four straight points on serve to win the set 6-4 and advance to the women's final for the second straight year, where she'll play the winner of Serena Williams vs. Sara Errani.
Sharapova's clutch third-set performance was highlighted by 22 winners, including seven aces.
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