Venus, Ivanovic in Auckland final; Serena beats Sharapova in Brisbane
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — One of the Williams sisters advanced to the final in an Australian Open warm-up event at Auckland, and the other reached the Brisbane final.
Venus Williams advanced to the ASB Classic final in Auckland on a walkover when fellow American Jamie Hampton withdrew from their semifinal Friday with a right hip injury. Second-seeded Ana Ivanovic turned Saturday's final into a match between former world No. 1s when she beat third-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-2, 7-6 (3).
Top-ranked Serena Williams defeated third-seeded Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 7-6 (7), in the Brisbane International semifinals. She's the defending Brisbane champion and has a 15-2 winning record against Sharapova, including the last 14 matches dating back to 2005.
While Serena Williams has been close to career-best form, winning 78 of her 82 matches in 2013, her older sister Venus has been struggling with injuries and is playing her first tournament since September.
The ASB Classic will be her first final since she captured the title in Luxembourg in October 2012.
Ivanovic, who won the most recent of her 11 WTA singles titles in 2011, has the chance to carry considerable momentum into the Australian Open later this month if she can maintain her current form.
She swept through the first set of the semifinal in only 21 minutes, breaking Flipkens in the first, third and fifth games.
"In the first set I didn't do much wrong and in the second set we were both serving really well," Ivanovic said. "I'm just really happy that I kept calm in the tiebreak and played some really good tennis."
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka beat Jelena Jankovic, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the Brisbane semifinals on Friday afternoon and will face Serena Williams in the final.
On the men's side in Brisbane, second-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 win over Marin Cilic of Croatia and will next meet former No. 1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, who cruised past Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-4, 6-2.
At the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, France clinched a place in Saturday's final against Poland by beating winless Spain.
Alize Cornet overcame left hamstring soreness to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-2, 6-2 before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sealed the victory by defeating 194th-ranked Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-2.
The United States takes on Czech Republic in a night match.