WTA: Henin, Maria to meet in finals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/j/justinehenin2_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Justin Henin can give her career year a perfect ending with a win over Maria Sharapova in the final at the Sony Ericsson Championships on Sunday.

Updated: November 12, 2007 15:03 IST
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Madrid, Spain:

Justin Henin can give her career year a perfect ending with a win over Maria Sharapova in the final at the Sony Ericsson Championships on Sunday.

Henin, the defending champion, overcame fourth-ranked Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-4, while a resurgent Sharapova cruised over fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Belgian can surpass her personal record of 24 consecutive wins by capturing her 10th title of the year, the most in a season by any player since Martina Hingis won 12 in 1997.

"I'm a little bit sad that the season is almost over because it only has good memories," Henin 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 the 2006 semifinals of the WTA's season-ending tournament with Henin winning 6-2, 7-5 (5) to clinch the year-end Number 1 ranking.

The sixth-ranked Russian is the only top-10 player Henin hasn't faced this season, which sees her with a 62-4 record that includes a fourth French Open and second US Open title.

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

Henin dropped her Number 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," Henin said. "My loss at Wimbledon has been pretty painful but helped me build something better - that helped me to win the U.S. Open."

Henin will surpass countrywoman Kim Clijsters as the WTA's highest single-season earner after the elite-eight women's event.

A right shoulder injury has limited Sharapova since San Diego in August - the only title she has in 2007 - but this was her fourth straight win in the tournament, which she won on her debut in 2004.

"I think I've done a really good job of staying consistent throughout each day and doing the things that I have to do to win the match," said Sharapova, who would reclaim a top-five ranking with a victory Sunday.

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

Ivanovic made Henin work hard for her win, the Belgian needing long rallies to convert her six breaks while successfully holding serve on nine occasions despite nine double faults.

"She's very consistent; even if she misses with unforced errors she comes back and plays big points," Ivanovic said. "That's the difference between her and other players."

Henin trailed 2-0 in the first set before rallying with a break in the next game. She then saved five break points in a game that went to deuce eight times before Ivanovic hit long to make it 2-2.

She broke again and never trailed despite Ivanovic pushing to the end to erase the memory of her 6-1, 6-2 loss to Henin in the final at Roland Garros.

"I'm happy with my performance today, I think I gave her a tough match," Ivanovic said. "I played a lot better than the last time against her, which is something positive."

Sharapova broke Chakvetadze twice in each set to improve to 6-0 against her countrywoman.

Chakvetadze, who has won a career-best four titles this year, failed to convert on any of her five break chances, including early in the second game as Sharapova slowly found her game.

"It was tough today because there were so many easy mistakes from me," Chakvetadze said.

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