Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her semifinal match against Sabine...

Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her semifinal match against Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. (June 30, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

WIMBLEDON, England -- So what if Maria Sharapova managed to win only two of the first 13 points of her Wimbledon semifinal yesterday, dropping the first three games? So what if she bungled her serve so badly that she double-faulted 13 times?

All that mattered to Sharapova was that she roared -- well, shrieked -- her way back into the match, taking 12 of the last 16 games to beat wild-card entry Sabine Lisicki of Germany, 6-4, 6-3, and return to the final at the All England Club for the first time since 2004, when she won the title at 17.

"It's been many years, but it's a really great feeling," Sharapova said. "Today wasn't my best match of the championships, so I was real happy to get through in two sets."

In Saturday's final, Sharapova will play No. 8 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who hit nine aces and dictated points throughout her 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory over No. 4 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Sharapova's seven-year gap between Wimbledon finals is the longest for a woman in the Open era, which began in 1968.

"I'm in a different stage in my career. I'm 24 years old. I have a lot of experience behind my back," Sharapova said. "But I'm still playing tennis."

That wasn't always a given: Months after winning her third, and most recent, Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open, Sharapova was sidelined with a serious injury to her right shoulder. She had surgery in October 2008.

Kvitova, who lost in last year's Wimbledon semifinals, is the first lefthanded woman to reach a Grand Slam title match since Monica Seles at the 1998 French Open. She would be the first lefty to win the Wimbledon trophy since 1990, when Martina Navratilova -- who was born in Czechoslovakia and was a spectator at Centre Court Thursday -- earned her ninth title.

"There's been so few women lefties that were good," Navratilova said. "For Petra, I think the key's always been to minimize those streaks of bad play. She's very streaky."

There's little question who the favorite is: Sharapova will be playing in her fifth major final, the 21-year-old Kvitova in her first. "Experience is an incredible asset," Sharapova said, "because you feel like you've been through many different situations."

In their only previous meeting, Sharapova beat Kvitova in straight sets on an indoor hard court at Memphis last year.

Nicklaus Bryans

No. 1-ranked doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan have a famous fan backing them at Wimbledon this year. Golf great Jack Nicklaus, who was invited to sit in the Royal Box, also took time to watch the American twins reach the doubles semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over defending champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner. Nicklaus has grass tennis courts at his home in Florida, holding doubles tournaments on weekends, and the Bryans have been invited. -- AP

More tennis