AMELIA ISLAND (Florida) - AUSTRALIAN Open champ Maria Sharapova reached her first claycourt final on Saturday after 16th seeded American Lindsay Davenport withdrew from their scheduled match due to illness.
Sharapova was 0-3 career in claycourt semifinals prior to the walkover win at this 600,000 dollar clay court event.
The top seed will be after her third title of the year and the 19th of her career on Sunday when she faces Dominika Cibulkova.
It was a disappointing end to a promising tournament for Davenport, who was a win away from reaching her fifth career final at this Tier II event.
The 31-year-old American had won 14 straight matches here, having gone 10-0 in winning back-to-back titles from 2004-05. She also won in 1997 and was runner-up in 2003.
In a battle of unseeded 18-year-olds in the other semi-final, Cibulkova emerged with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Alize Cornet.
The 34th-ranked Slovak will be appearing in her maiden WTA Tour final Sunday when she faces Sharapova for the first time.
Cibulkova has made an impressive run through the draw with upsets of No. 2 Anna Chakvetadze, 11th-seeded Amelie Mauresmo and No. 14 Victoria Azarenka.
Cornet also had posted her share of surprises here with wins over No. 9 Sybille Bammer and 13th-ranked Virginie Razzano, but was denied what would have been her first Tier II final appearance.
The Frenchwoman played in her first championship match at the Tier III Acapulco event last month, finishing as runner-up to Flavia Pennetta. -- AFP