Maria Sharapova will meet Kim Clijsters in the final of the Cincinnati Open on Sunday after the pair came through contrasting semifinal ties.
Sharapova of Russia hits a return to her compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in their semifinal match at the 2010 Cincinnati Women's Open tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio August 14, 2010
Belgian Clijsters advanced after her Serbian opponent Ana Ivanovic retired with ankle ligament injury early in the first set, while Sharapova had to battle through three tough sets to beat fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 3-6 6-2 and reach her second final in successive tournaments.
In a fascinating encounter, the three-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova never truly dominated her determined 19-year-old opponent until she broke in the third set to take a 4-2 lead.
Sharapova was beaten in the Stanford final by Victoria Azarenka earlier this month said she was now fired up to get a victory ahead of the US Open later this month.
"I certainly want to give it all I have, all the energy and power and everything," she said.
The pair have not met since Clijsters returned last year following a two-year break from the sport.
"I'm excited, it's been a while since we played and we have been through different things in our lives," Sharapova said, referring to her lengthy absence with a shoulder injury.
While Clijsters, now a full year into her comeback, will be a tough opponent for Sharapova, the Belgian reached the final with little effort after a tearful Ivanovic was forced to quit.
Ivanovic had made a fairly routine return with the score 2-1 to Clijsters in the first set but then pulled up and had to receive extensive treatment. The former world number one returned but was visibly in pain and had to retire.
It was a huge disappointment for Ivanovic, who has undergone a form slump since winning the 2008 French Open and is trying to claw her way back up the rankings. She had also looked in good form in Cincinnati, reaching her second semifinal of the year.
"I'm obviously disappointed the way it finished because I felt like I had really good run," said Ivanovic.
"Just on that one forehand when I went to step around it, I just felt so much pain in my foot and I couldn't step on it anymore,” she added.
“I tried (a) bit of tape, but I could not put any weight on it and there was no point in me continuing."
The Serb said the injury was not a recurrence of any previous problem and tests showed she had strained ankle ligaments.
Clijsters, the US Open champion, said she hoped Ivanovic's injury healed quickly.
"She is doing well again and then something like this happens, I hope she is okay and it is nothing too serious and she will be okay for the US Open," she said.
The first round of the US Open begins on August 30 and Ivanovic's next scheduled event is in New Haven on August 22.