Williams sets up Sharapova final to close in on French Open title

WORLD No1 Serena Williams admitted defending champion Maria Sharapova will be hard to beat in this year’s French Open final after both achieved victories in the semi-finals yesterday.

Williams, who triumphed at Roland Garros in 2002, thrashed last year’s finalist Sara Errani, 6-0, 6-1, while Sharapova had to work hard to overcome sturdy third seed Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

“It’s magnificent to be back in the final after 11 years,” said the 31-year-old American.

“Against Maria, I will have to prepare slightly differently. She’s a great player.”

Williams only took 21 minutes to end the first set and required just 46 in total to clinch the match. Errani, who has never beaten Williams, won a single game in the second set to earn cheers from the Philippe Chatrier crowd but that was all she had strength for against the in-form 15-time Grand Slam winner.

Earlier, defending champion Sharapova won the first set before Azarenka fought back to level as rain interrupted the match.

In a final set full of twists, including two games of more than 10 minutes, the Russian was the one who celebrated in the end.

On Saturday, Sharapova has the difficult task of defending her title with a win – the one thing she has never achieved against Williams.