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Sharapova, Serena to meet in blockbuster gold medal match

Career Grand Slam winners Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will play for the career Golden Slam on Saturday when the two superstars clash in the gold medal match at the London Olympic Games.

The third-seeded former world No. 1 Sharapova blew past No. 14 seed Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-3 in an all-Russian semifinal on Court 1 at the All England Club, while a fourth-seeded former No. 1 Williams waltzed past reigning top-ranked star and 2012 Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-2 on the famed Centre Court.

"It's incredible, not only to be a part of this event and be an Olympian, but to put yourself in with an opportunity to go for gold. It's a really nice feeling," Sharapova said.

Williams needed five match points to put away Azarenka, who exited the draw when the American popped a match-ending second-serve ace, her 16th ace of the lopsided affair.

The American moved on in just over an hour by striking 21 more winners (33-12) while the Belarusian was piling up 14 unforced errors.

The mighty Williams is now a commanding 9-1 lifetime against Azarenka.

"When you play the best in the world, you have to play better. That's what I did," Williams said. "I warmed up probably five times waiting for the match before me to finish, but I can wait with the best of them -- I've been waiting my whole life. I have a lot of patience. That's the only thing I have patience with though."

Williams has now won her last 16 matches since being shocked by France's Virginie Razzano in the first round at the French Open in May. And the future tennis Hall-of-Famer is a perfect 12-0 on grass this season.

The 30-year-old Williams captured her 14th Grand Slam singles title last month when she secured her fifth Wimbledon title on the hallowed lawns here.

The French Open champion Sharapova, meanwhile, topped Kirilenko in 1 hour, 29 minutes despite committing 14 more unforced errors (19-5). The tall slugger, however, also popped six aces, tallied three more service breaks (4-1), and struck 28 more winners (35-7) on Day 7 of this nine-day event.

The 25-year-old Sharapova is now 4-2 lifetime against Kirilenko, including 2-0 this year.

Russian women have now accounted for three of the last four Olympic gold medal match finalists. Russia swept the women's singles medals four years ago in Beijing, when Elena Dementieva captured gold, Dinara Safina took home silver, and Vera Zvonareva secured bronze.

Sharapova will appear in her 44th career WTA-level final, seeking a 28th championship. She's already titled at the French Open, Stuttgart and Rome this year and is a three-time 2012 runner-up, including the Australian Open.

The Russian star will return to No. 1 in the world with a win on Saturday.

Williams, like Sharapova, is seeking her first-ever singles gold medal. The American great owns 43 career titles, including four so far this season.

The powerful Williams is 8-2 all-time versus Sharapova, including a quarterfinal win in Madrid earlier this year. They've split a pair of matches at the All England Club, with the Russian stunning the American in the 2004 Wimbledon final and Williams topping Sharapova in a fourth-round Wimbledon affair in 2010.

"I really look forward to playing Maria. I haven't played her in a while," Williams said. "We always have good matches. She has improved so much. It will be interesting. She's ranked higher than I am so, again, I have nothing to lose."

Azarenka and Kirilenko will play for the bronze medal on Saturday. They are tied in their head-to-head matches at 2-2, but Azarenka has won their last two encounters in straight sets.