By NESHA STARCEVIC, Associated Press
STUTTGART, Germany (AP) — Defending champion Maria Sharapova rallied in the third set to beat Angelique Kerber 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 Saturday and earn a spot in the final of the Porsche Grand Prix.
Sharapova will play either second-seeded Li Na or qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands for the title in the indoor clay-court tournament Sunday.
"I like it quick and easier, but the great thing is I got through," Sharapova said.
Sharapova committed two consecutive double-faults to drop her serve at the start of the decisive set. But she won the last eight points and clinched the match when her third-seeded German opponent hit a backhand long.
Sharapova was pushed to three sets for the third straight match in Stuttgart and missed a chance to serve out the match in the ninth game after taking a 5-3 lead.
After winning in Stuttgart last year, Sharapova went on to take the French Open title to complete her career Grand Slam. But she would not draw parallels between the two seasons.
"It's too early to talk about the French Open and I don't like to compare different years. You play different players, different conditions, but you can build confidence if you have success on the same court," she said.
Sharapova, ranked No. 2, is aiming for her second title of the year after winning in Indian Wells. She would be the first player to defend her title in Stuttgart since Lindsay Davenport in 2005. Sharapova has 15 straight wins on clay.
The Russian set the tone in the first set by breaking serve in the opening game. Kerber saved two set points but then produced a double-fault to give it away. The German rallied in the second, twice breaking Sharapova's serve with aggressive play.
"I lost momentum by not being aggressive," Sharapova said.
Both players mixed sizzling winners on the lines with errors. Sharapova was particularly inconsistent, hitting 42 winners but also producing 44 unforced errors.
But her strong finish in the last two games allowed Sharapova to improve to 4-1 against the sixth-ranked Kerber.
"I came through in the end, I did my job," Sharapova said. "I am pleased how I fought in the third."
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