LONDON – Maria Sharapova admitted reaching her first Olympic final was a dream come true as the Russian world number three defeated compatriot Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-3 in the semi-finals on Friday.
The 25-year-old will play Wimbledon champion Serena Williams or world number one Victoria Azarenka in Saturday’s final as she tries to complete the Golden Slam of titles in all four majors and the Olympic singles.
Sharapova, who is competing in the Games for the first time, is now guaranteed at least a silver medal following her dominant display against the 14th seed.
“It’s incredible, not only to be part of this event and be an Olympian, but to put yourself in with an opportunity to go for gold. It’s a really nice feeling,” Sharapova said.
“What I have achieved in my career has been amazing. Obviously growing up you have big dreams and you hope to win your certain favourite tournaments.
“I’ve been really fortunate to win all the Grand Slams and obviously this is my first Olympics so I’m just thrilled to be in the final.”
If Sharapova felt slighted by tournament organisers, who chose her match as the only one of the four men’s and women’s singles semi-finals to be scheduled on Court One, she didn’t show it.
This was a composed display from the moment she landed the first blow with a break to love in the sixth game of the first set.
Sharapova pressed home her advantage with another break to take the set in convincing fashion.
Kirilenko had a chance to get back in the match when she broke for a 3-2 lead in the second set, but Sharapova quickly regained control with a break in the next game.
That seemed to shatter Kirilenko’s spirit. Sharapova went for the kill and let out a scream of joy as she broke for a 5-3 lead.
There was a brief wobble from Sharapova with the finish line in sight as she fell 0-30 down, but the four-time Grand Slam champion recovered her composure, unleashing one stunning cross-court winner, before sealing the win on her second match point.