In my last blog entry, I wrote about how despite the top 4 seeds being gone, the 2014 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix semifinal match-ups were arguably stronger than had they advanced. Well, make that ditto for the final. In what might be one of the few 6th vs 9th seed finals to be called a dream match-up, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, two of the WTA tour’s fan favorites, will meet with the Premier title on the line. Two of women’s tennis’ most marketable and visible stars, each player came into Stuttgart with questions. Both have answered those questions. Masha has improved every round, culminating in a rout of Sara Errani in the semis, 1 and 2. Granted, Sharapova is undefeated against Errani so the result is not overly surprising. Still, Masha has lost some shaky matches earlier in the year to players she should have beaten. In that light, I am not going to diminish her win over Sara or anybody else right now. This is her third straight Stuttgart final. She is the two-time defending champion. She is 7-2 lifetime against Ana Ivanovic with her last loss to the Serbian star coming in 2007. Ana will have her hands full. But the Ana that fans have seen this year is getting closer to the best Ana of the past. This is her third final of the year. She already has two titles, in Auckland and Monterrey. She’s beaten both Williams sisters this year, Venus in Auckland and Serena at the Australian Open in Melbourne. She looked very sharp ousting Jelena Jankovic, 6-3 7-5. Ana only dropped serve once. That’s the shot that lets her down the most. When it’s working, her serve is a weapon that sets up her big forehand. Julia Goerges (2011), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009) and Jelena Jankovic (2008) are all former Stuttgart winners. Ana took them all out in this year’s event. She’ll need her big serve and forehand if she wants to defeat a fourth former champion in the final.
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6 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 6-1 6-2 vs 8 Sara Errani)
9 ANA IVANOVIC (won 6-3 7-5 vs 5 Jelena Jankovic)