Henin Sharapova To Meet In Sony Ericsson Final

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Justin Henin wants a perfect post-Wimbledon season.

With a win over Maria Sharapova in the final at the Sony Ericsson Championships on Sunday, Henin can become the first player to go unbeaten after Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1989.

Henin defeated fourth-ranked Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-4, and Sharapova stopped No. 7 Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-2 Saturday in the semifinals of the round-robin tournament that features the top eight players.

A win would equal Graf's 25-match run and make Henin the first player to capture 10 or more titles in a season since Martina Hingis in 1997. Henin won the French Open and U.S. Open en route to a 62-4 record this season.

"I'm a little bit sad that the season is almost over because it only has good memories," she said. "There's one match left, the last of the season and I want to make the most of it."

Henin and Sharapova last met in 2006 semifinals of the WTA's season-ending tournament. Henin won 6-2, 7-5 (5) to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Sharapova has beaten Henin only twice in eight meetings, the last at the 2006 U.S. Open final.

"It's going to be a tough one, she's got nothing to lose and this is the last match," Henin said. "I need pressure to play well. To win the championship is my motivation and my goal."

On Saturday, Sharapova won her fourth straight match of the tournament after an injured shoulder limited her to a single victory since Aug. 31.

"I just thought to myself that four weeks ago you were really doubting yourself, so to be here is really great and to be in the final is even better," said Sharapova, who can move into the top five with a win.

Henin dropped her No. 1 ranking to Sharapova in January after missing the start of the season to deal with her divorce.

"It was a season with a lot of emotions, good ones and bad ones," said the top-ranked Belgian. "My loss at Wimbledon has been pretty painful but helped me build something better -- that helped me to win the U.S. Open."

The sixth-ranked Sharapova dropped out of the top five for the first time in three years. Slowed by a shoulder injury, she's 36-10 with a career-low one singles title this season.

"The most import thing is that I've been able to serve without thinking about hurting my shoulder," Sharapova said. "I'm serving and playing freely and that is really important."

Henin, who has $4.3 million in prize money, will surpass Kim Clijsters as the WTA's highest single-season earner after the event.

"It's going to be a mental battle," Henin said. "She's a girl I know well, I've won, she's won, we fought for No. 1 here and for the championships. She's back now this week to her best level, but I have a lot of motivation to win here again."

Ivanovic put up a tougher fight against Henin than during their last encounter -- a 6-1, 6-2 defeat in the French Open final.

Henin needed long rallies to break Ivanovic six times. Henin held serve nine times despite nine double-faults and improved to 3-0 against Ivanovic.

Sharapova, who won the 2004 season-ending tournament on her debut, broke Chakvetadze twice in each set to improve to 6-0 against the her.


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