Maria Sharapova will be the overwhelming favorite to win her third title in Rome tomorrow against the hot-handed Carla Suarez Navarro who upset Simona Halep in her semifinal.
In her match, Sharapova had a struggle in the first set then gained control taking out Cinderella qualifier Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3. The young Gavrilova who stunned Maria in Miami and was playing in her first WTA semifinal, once again had her on the defense early on, but experience won out.
The win moves Sharapova to No. 2 in the world on Monday and assures her of being on the opposite side of Serena Williams at the French Open.
Earlier, Suarez Navarro, who made the Miami final, continued her fine form bouncing out Halep in an error-filled 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory. The two equally shared 18 breaks of serve and Halep lost it on her 60th unforced error.
“We were breaking serve all the time, but it’s because we were both returning very well,” said Suarez Navarro after her first career Top 2 win (was 0-9). “I think we were just playing really good tennis today, at a very good level. It was tough for me, it was tough for Simona – but I’m really happy with the way I finished the match today.
“I’ve been practicing really hard during the whole season, and I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m playing more aggressively, which is important when you’re playing the top players.”
Sharapova leads CSN 3-1 including two since the Spaniard beat her last summer in Canada. But they’ve never played on the clay.
“She loves this surface,” Sharapova said. “She grew up on clay. I’ve beaten her the last couple of times, but I’ve had losses against her too… I know what a difficult player she can be, and she seems like she’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, especially after her win in the semifinals today.
“She has one of the best one-handed backhands on the tour. It’s going to be a tough final.”
Sharapova has won 20 of her last 21 matches in Rome. She is seeking her first title since Brisbane.
“I feel better on clay so we will see what happen,” Suarez Navarro said.. “Maria is very good mentally, she’s really strong, she plays aggressive in the important moments. Maria can focus on her game and also serve really good in important moments.”
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