Stosur Reaches Final, Sharapova Beats No.1

Sam Stosur and Maria Sharapova were both in top form as they won straight set semifinals in Rome.

Published May 14, 2011 12:00

Stosur Reaches Final, Sharapova Beats No.1
Samantha Stosur

ROME, Italy - Her weapons becoming more dangerous with each match, Samantha Stosur powered past Li Na and into her first WTA final in almost a year at the $2,050,000 Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Saturday.

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Stosur, the No.6 seed, missed four set points early in the first set - two at 5-3, two at 5-4 - as Li, the No.4 seed, rallied and eventually had set point herself at 6-5 in the tie-break. But Stosur snapped back into it, clinching that first set in 57 minutes then rolling through the second in 25 minutes to win, 76(6) 60.

"It was disappointing not being able to convert the set points on my serve, especially since I'd been holding relatively easily," Stosur said. "But I turned it around. If you have a tight first set it can be a boost for the one who wins it and a disappointment to the one who loses it. It makes a big difference mentally."

Fifty weeks ago, Stosur was making a run to her first Grand Slam final at the French Open, and although she would remain firmly in the Top 10 since then, she didn't reach another final - until this week at the Foro Italico in Rome.

"It's very competitive on the tour and just because you've made one final it doesn't mean you'll be doing it every single week," Stosur commented. "After losing in the final of the French last year, I did struggle mentally for a little bit. It's not always easy to see the positives of a tournament after you lose. I had played some good matches over the last 12 months but wasn't able to make it all the way to the end again - I'm excited I've done it here in Rome."

Awaiting Stosur in the final will be No.7 seed Maria Sharapova, who hit a flurry of winners from all wings to get past No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki, 75 63.

Sharapova picked up her level when it mattered most in each set, winning eight of nine points from 5-all in the first set and reeling off five games in a row from 1-3 in the second set to close it out, finishing the match off with a screaming forehand return winner up the line. The 24-year-old Russian hit more than twice as many winners as the 20-year-old Dane during the match (36 to 15).

"I haven't had my best results on clay. I'm not as much of a favorite as other players who are stronger on clay. But at the end of the day it's not really about that," Sharapova said. "There are many things in a tennis match and today I was slightly better. I've improved with every match and I'm getting better."

Sharapova, a former No.1 herself, is now 5-5 against reigning No.1s (2-1 against Lindsay Davenport, 1-1 against Amélie Mauresmo, 1-1 against Justine Henin, 0-1 against Serena Williams and 1-1 against Wozniacki).

Sharapova has beaten Stosur in all seven of their prior meetings, not losing more than four games in a set to her since 2005. But this will be their first meeting on clay, perhaps an advantage to Stosur - Stosur reached her only major final at the French, the only major Sharapova hasn't made the final of.

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