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Sharapova sets up final with Stosur
Sharapova outfoxed Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 while Stosur overpowered Li Na 7-6, 6-0 at the Italian Open.
Rome: Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur signalled their return to form ahead of Roland Garros after setting up a final showdown at the Italian Open on Saturday.
Seventh seed Sharapova called on all her experience to outfox 20-year-old world number one Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 while sixth seed Australian Stosur proved too tenacious for fourth seed Li Na, overpowering the Chinese 7-6, 6-0 in sunny Rome.
"It's thrilling to be in the final and I'm going to go for it," said Sharapova. "I've beaten her in the past but it's the first time we'll be playing on clay where she's had her best success. Clay seems to suit her game."
Prior to a long-term shoulder injury, the 24-year-old Russian had won three grand slams titles but none on the clay of the French Open where she struggled.
"It's easy to say I haven't had my best results on clay but at the end of the day there are many things that go into a tennis match," she said. "I've never said I don't love clay. My legs weren't as strong before as some other players on the circuit. I'm stronger physically now."
Following four breaks in a row, the Russian punished her opponent with deep strokes to hold her serve at 6-5 before wrapping up the first set.
Wozniacki, who has won three titles this year, fought back to go 3-1 up in the second, sending the Foro Italico crowd to their feet after pulling off a stunning forehand on the run that a diving Sharapova could only throw her racked at.
"I took a dive," said Sharapova with a smile. "I thought I was on the cliffs of Italy and forgot there was no water out there."
But despite a grazed knee from the fall, Sharapova got up and reeled off five games in a row to seal her place in the final.
In the first semi-final, Stosur overpowered Li to reach her first final of the year.
In a fluctuating first set, last year's French Open runner-up broke at the first attempt and opened up a 5-3 lead as her high kicking serve proved too much for Li to handle.
The Chinese player fought back, saving a set-point before breaking back and then missing a set-point of her own in the tiebreak before Stosur took it with her latest huge big serve.
Stosur then cruised through the second set as Li, a losing finalist at the Australian Open in January, capitulated against her opponent's powerful ground strokes.
"It was a bit disappointing not to hold my serve in the first set and it felt like she had the momentum but I hit some good shots to come through," Stosur told reporters.
"I haven't played a final for about a year now so I'm looking forward to it. For sure Rome's a lead up to the French Open but it's a prestigious tournament in itself.
""Clay is my favourite surface although I grew up on hard courts. I've used clay to my advantage and am really comfortable on the surface now. I'd like to see more tournaments on clay."
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