Russian defending champion Maria Sharapova beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4 to set up a Rome Masters final against Li Na of China.
Sharapova advanced in 89 minutes against Kerber, whose move into the WTA top-10 on Monday will complete a line-up for 10 different nationalities at the summit of the women’s game.
“It feels good coming back to the place where you have accomplished so much,” said Sharapova, who will play her fifth final from her last seven events and the 43rd of her career. “I’m happy at how I’ve progressed. I’ve had tough matches. I’ve improved and I hope to continue improving.”
Li, who will defend her French Open title when the Grand Slam starts a week Sunday, reached the title match at the Foro Italico without hitting a ball in her semi-final as opponent Serena Williams withdrew, claiming back pain but admitting the pullout was really just a precaution.
“When I was warming up this morning, I was really looking forward to playing against one of the best players ever,” said Li, who has not won a title since her triumph in Paris a year ago. “Of course I’m happy to reach the final but I don’t like winning like that. I am so sorry for Serena and hope she gets healthy.”
The Russian world number two, whose Rome trophy was one of two she lifted in 2011, ended with 27 winners and 25 unforced errors, breaking four times. Kerber managed only nine winners but did put her opponent under pressure in each set before finally losing.
Sharapova already owns a clay title in 2012 after winning Stuttgart last month in her debut appearance over number one and main rival Victoria Azarenka.
The Russian has advanced into the Sunday title match without losing a set against the only player outside the top-10 to defeat her this season (Paris).
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2012.
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