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          === Williams, Sharapova to play for season-ending title ===
 Istanbul,  Turkey (Sports  Network) - Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova were
 semifinal  winners  Saturday and will play  for the title at the season-ending
 WTA Championships.
 Williams  needed  a mere 61  minutes in  a 6-2, 6-1  rout of a tired Agnieszka
 Radwanska  in the first semifinal before Sharapova polished off newly-anointed
 season-ending No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, 6-4, 6-2.
 Azarenka  was assured  of the year-end No.  1 distinction by winning a pair of
 matches  during the round-robin portion of this week's tournament, but she had
 no answer for Sharapova on Saturday after dominating the Russian star for most
 of 2012.
 Sharapova  entered  this  weekend's  semifinals just  1-4  this  year  against
 Azarenka,  including  a loss to the  Belarusian in the final of the Australian
 Open.  Sharapova  then fell  to Azarenka  in the final  at Indian Wells before
 prevailing  for the title when the two met in Stuttgart. Azarenka, though, had
 won the two most-recent matchups -- in the semifinals at the U.S. Open and the
 final in Beijing.
 Azarenka  rolled to  a 6-3,  6-1  decision earlier  this month  in China,  but
 Sharapova  turned the  tables on Saturday. A  second break for a 3-2 lead gave
 Sharapova  the decisive edge in a 47-minute first set. The 2004 WTA champ then
 broke  twice in  winning the first four  games of the second to advance to the
 final for a third time.
 "I  certainly  didn't make  as many  mistakes today  as I  did in our previous
 matches,"  said  Sharapova. "I also  returned a  little bit better, although I
 still feel like I could have returned better than I did today."
 In  addition  to winning  this title  in 2004, Sharapova  was the runner-up in
 2007.  She  hasn't lost  yet this week,  winning all three  of her White Group
 round-robin matches before Saturday's triumph.
 Williams  is  also unbeaten  this week.  She beat Angelique  Kerber, Li Na and
 Azarenka  -- all in straight sets -- to claim first place in the Red Group and
 on  Sunday  will try  for her  third title at  the season-ending event, having
 previously won it in 2001 and 2009.
 Saturday's  match was virtually no contest. Radwanska, coming off a 3 1/2-hour
 effort  on Friday in a win against Italy's Sara Errani, won two straight games
 to square the first set at two apiece. It was all Williams from there.
 "I  really tried  today and I really  wanted to run, but my legs just didn't,"
 said Radwanska. "This is the kind of tournament where you have to be fit every
 match  to win.  I  was trying,  but  Serena  played too  fast.  I couldn't  do
 The  American  star won 10  of the final  11 games to  reach the final for the
 fifth time. In addition to her two wins, Williams also lost the title match in
 2002 and 2004.
 The  2004 setback  came against  Sharapova --  one of  only two  wins for  the
 Russian  in 11 lifetime meetings against Williams. The other victory also came
 in 2004, a stunning 6-1, 6-4 rout in that year's Wimbledon finale.
 Williams  has  won the last eight  meetings with Sharapova, including two this
 year. She claimed a 6-1, 6-3 triumph in the Madrid quarterfinals before a 6-0,
 6-1 annihilation for the gold medal at the London Olympics.
 Sharapova  and  Williams combined to win  three of this year's four Grand Slam
 events.  After  Azarenka captured  the Australian  Open, Sharapova completed a
 career  Grand  Slam by finally winning  the French Open. Williams then claimed
 the titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
 Williams, in fact, has won 47 of her last 49 matches. She won titles this year
 in  Charleston, Madrid and Stanford in addition to the major championships and
 the Olympics. On Sunday, she will try for her 46th career title.
 Sharapova  has 27 career titles, including three this year. She hasn't hoisted
 a  trophy, though, since Roland Garros, winning titles previously in Stuttgart
 and Rome.
 The  Russian-born  Florida resident owns  a career  record of 27-18 in finals,
 including a disappointing 3-5 mark this year.
 Sunday's  winner  will claim a  first prize of  $1.75 million as an undefeated
 10/27 13:33:36 ET

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