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Top-seeded Sharapova loses to Pavlyuchenkova in Paris semifinals

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PARIS - Top-seeded Maria Sharapova lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in an all-Russian semifinal of the Open GDF Suez on Saturday.

Pavlyuchenkova will play third-seeded Sara Errani of Italy for her first final since the Korea Open in September. Errani outlasted Alize Cornet of France 7-6 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (5).

"I knew that I had to serve well because Maria has one of the best returns on the tour, probably," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I remember playing her like three or four years ago, she broke me a lot of times and that was the key for her to win."

In their only previous meeting, Sharapova beat Pavlyuchenkova in 2010 in Cincinnati.

Sharapova led 3-0 in the opening set but her compatriot broke back in the seventh game. Pavlyuchenkova lost the first set by sending a backhand wide as Sharapova imposed her aggressive game, having a 15-9 edge in winners and winning nine of 10 points at the net.

"I thought I started the match really well but, as the match continued, I stopped doing the things that really helped me in the beginning," Sharapova said. "I wasn't being aggressive, I wasn't in the court."

Pavlyuchenkova put the four-time Grand Slam champion under pressure in the second set, capitalizing on a double fault and a forehand error to break Sharapova in the opening game. The 26th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova evened the match with a backhand winner.

"She found her spots really well," Sharapova said. "There's not much I could do when she hit those good first serves."

They traded breaks early in the final set. Sharapova lost the match by finishing with two consecutive double faults.

Sharapova made five double faults in the last set, landing only 48 per cent of her first serves.

In the second semifinal, Cornet won five more points than Errani, but the Italian held her nerve in the tiebreakers.

Errani failed to serve out the first set at 5-4 and 6-5. But last year's runner-up recovered by jumping to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker. Cornet netted a forehand to drop the opening set.

Cornet broke serve three times in the second set and levelled the match with a backhand winner.

In the final set, Errani failed to serve out the match at 5-4 but she steadied herself to win the last two points in the tiebreaker.

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