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August 10, 2009

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Pennetta too strong for Sharapova

ITALY'S Flavia Pennetta stunned former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals of the LA Women's Championships in Carson, California, on Saturday.

Pennetta, the 10th seed, will meet Samantha Stosur in the final after the Australian used her big serve to overwhelm Romanian teenager Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-2.

Playing her eighth match in 12 days, three-time grand slam champion Sharapova clearly lacked energy as the match wore on and squandered a 3-1 lead in the third set thanks to a litany of double faults and sloppy errors.

"I didn't feel fresh," said Sharapova, who double faulted 16 times and had 61 unforced errors compared to 23 from Pennetta.

"I was surprised it went to the third and I had my opportunities, but I couldn't close it out."

Pennetta played an aggressive match, rarely giving ground even when Sharapova tried to force her off court with big ground strokes.

"To play against her I have to be very aggressive and in the second set I started to wait for her mistakes and that's why the match changed so much," said Pennetta, who also reached the LA final last year before falling to Russia's Dinara Safina.

Playing in her sixth tournament since returning to the tour in May following shoulder surgery, the 22-year-old Russian was heartened by her week overall, but knows she has a long way to go before regaining championship form.

"It's almost like new territory for me," said Sharapova, who hasn't won a title since April 2008.

In reaching her first final of the year, Stosur, the 13th seed, nailed seven aces and won 85 percent of her first serve points.

Cirstea had suffered a right foot injury in her upset of Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday and never looked comfortable moving, committing 25 unforced errors.

In Washington, top seed Andy Roddick will face holder and second seed Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Legg Mason Classic after overcoming a 20-ace barrage to oust fellow American John Isner 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5.

Del Potro earned a shot at winning his second title of the year by wearing down Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, the fourth seed, in oppressive afternoon heat 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the other semifinal.

"It will be tough," Roddick said of the final against the Argentine. "You know what you're going to get from him. He plays at a high level every day. That's why he's sixth in the world."

World No. 5 Roddick, bidding for his fourth Washington title, managed only nine aces but never lost his serve during the 2-1/2-hour match against the 80th-ranked Isner.

Del Potro won despite landing only 47 percent of his first serves in an error-strewn battle where both players visibly struggled in the steamy conditions.


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