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Sharapova, Azarenka play in women’s Australian Open final

MELBOURNE, Australia – The age gap is only two years, but the difference in experience is vast between Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Sharapova, who defeated No. 2 Petra Kvitova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, to reach the championship match, will play her sixth Grand Slam final at the Australian Open on Saturday against Azarenka, who is making her debut in a Slam final. And it isn’t just a major title on the line – the winner will claim the No. 1 ranking.

Four years after winning the last of her three major titles and approaching eight years since she lifted the Wimbledon trophy at 17, Sharapova has another chance to add to her Grand Slam haul.

“It means so much to be back in a Grand Slam final,” Sharapova, 24, said. “It’s nice to get that far again after losing quite early in the last couple of years.”

Azarenka, who defeated defending champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals, may take added confidence from two previous wins over Sharapova in hardcourt finals in Stanford and Miami. They share a 3-3 record overall.