The top couple in tennis, Maria Sharapova and love interest Grigor Dimitrov will be bidding for separate clay titles on Sunday.
The former No. 1 Sharapova faces Serbian Ana Ivanovic in the Stuttgart title match. Now 27, Sharapova has become more adept in her later years on the clay, and today she blew out Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2 in a rematch of their 2012 French Open final.
“The further you go in the tournament, the harder it gets, and I really wanted to step up today and produce a good performance,” said Sharapova. “The first tournament on clay is always tough – it’s important to improve with each match and I think I’ve done that this week.”
Sharapova is now 12-0 lifetime at the event having won the title there the last three years.
Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champ, reached the title match after out-dueling countrywoman and rival Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 7-5.
“It’s definitely going to be a very tough match, I don’t think she’s ever lost a match here,” Ivanovic said. “She loves this tournament, and hopefully it will be a great match like we had here last year.”
Sharapova leads Ivanovic in their head-to-head series, 7-2, and has has won their last six meetings in a row – and the last three of their meetings have all come on clay including a 3-setter a year ago.
In Bucharest, Sharapova’s boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov seeks third career title against defending champion Lukas Rosol. In the semis, Dimitrov earned his final spot after oft-injured Gael Monfils hurt his right ankle down 5-1 in the first set. Rosol advanced with a 3-set win over Robin Haase.
“It is disappointing for Gael,” said Dimitrov. “As much as I am happy, it is an undeserved win and unfortunately it had to end that way. I saw what happened. I hope he will be okay for the coming weeks.
“I am confident, having beaten some good players. I have to be prepared as I know what to expect from him (Rosol). It will be a good feeling walking out onto centre court tomorrow.”
Said Rosol, “We have never played each other. I think he is the favorite, but I have nothing to lose. I like playing on this court… and I will fight to the end.”
And in the upset-ravaged Barcelona, Kei Nishikori takes on Santiago Giraldo in that final. Nishikori knocked out Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 6-4. Then Giraldo ended the run of Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-3. A day earlier it was Almagro stunning Rafael Nadal.
“I was very happy to see lots of Japanese people congratulating me after the match,” said Nishikori. “I love coming to Spain to play. There have not been any easy matches. I am playing great and I am particularly pleased with my serve and forehand.”
Giraldo has never won an ATP title while Nishokori is seeking a fifth and second of the year, first career on clay.
In the other WTA stop this weekend, the Marrakech final is set between Romina Oprandi and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.
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Nadal in Barcelona, Sharapova in Stuttgart; ATP/WTA Previews