RABAT, Morocco - Top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ran off the last eight games to defeat Sara Errani, 6-4, 6-0 and advance to the final at the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem on Friday.
The Russian will contest her second straight WTA final on Saturday against Francesca Schiavone, in a meeting of two of the most in-form players on tour. In the day's second semifinal, Schiavone defeated Varvara Lepchenko for the first time in 12 years, 7-5, 6-4.
Both players are on a nine-match winning streak on the WTA Tour, though Plavlyuchenkova lost her lone Fed Cup rubber to Elise Mertens in between. The Russian claimed her first title of 2017 in Monterrey in April, while Schiavone was victorious in Bogota and will aim for her second clay court title in three weeks.
"I'm really happy to reach the finals here," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I'm happy with the way I was fighting, and I beat a good player today. I've [been] fighting every point, every match and I really wanted to do well here."
After getting out to a 3-0 lead in the first set behind two breaks of serve, Pavlyuchenkova saw Errani dig in with some classic clay-court tennis to win four of the next five games and event the set at 4-4.
However, the Russian turned things on for the duration of the match, and ran off the last eight games to secure the one-hour, 17 minute victory. The top seed's numbers backed up her sparkling performance, as she struck 35 winners to 21 unforced errors, and won 60 percent of the points on both her serve and 59 percent on return.
Schiavone advanced in contrasting fashion, despite securing the first two-set victory in four career meetings against Lepchenko. Previously, the American won the pair's only two meetings on clay - a 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3 marathon in Madrid in 2012 and another 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 decision at the French Open that same year - but the Italian nonetheless managed to earn her first win against Lepchenko since 2005.
Though the American served at 80 percent and saved nine of the 12 break points she faced in the opener, Schiavone edged in front after over an hour of play by winning four of the last five games played.
Unable to hang on to her serve at 5-4, the Italian responded to a love break by Lepchenko with a third break of her own, and later sealed the opener with a service winner on her second set point.
Schiavone twice led by a break in the second set only to see Lepchenko answer back each time, but a deciding break for the wildcard in the ninth game helped her seal the victory in a shade over two hours.
"I'm very happy and look forward to play the final against Pavlyuchenkova tomorrow," Schiavone said. "It will be a really tough match. She's really solid...in the last two years she grew a lot. The most important thing for me is to be healthy tomorrow...I'm enjoying, I feel the crowd love me so this is a big power for me, so I'm ready for tomorrow. Not now! Tomorrow."
Saturday's meeting will be the eighth all-time between Pavlyuchenkova and Schiavone, though the first since 2014, as the Russian leads 4-3 in their career head-to-head. The Italian owns both of the pair's matches on clay, with three-set wins coming in Fed Cup in 2009 and the quarterfinals of the French Open in 2011.