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WTA Tennis • Internazionali BNL d’Italia • Sharapova Sets Rome Blockbuster Quarterfinal vs. Ostapenko

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates winning her Women’s singles third round match against Australian Daria Gavrilova during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 17 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO ONORATI



French Open champions will face off for a place in Rome’s final four.


Two-time Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova scored her first straight-sets win of the week charging into a blockbuster quarterfinal clash with reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko.


Calming closing nerves, Sharapova subdued a pugnacious Daria Gavrilova, 6-3, 6-4, advancing to her third quarterfinal of the season in a critical victory.


The 40th-ranked Russian surged into her second straight quarterfinal and is projected to rise high enough in the rankings to ensure a seeding for Roland Garros, which starts on May 27th. Sharapova raised her Rome record to 22-2—second only to Serena Williams (23-2) among active women.


Earlier, the fifth-seeded Ostapenko rallied past Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.


Continuing her pursuit of her first clay-court crown since she ruled Rome in 2015, Sharapova struck with authority and showed some finesse befuddling Gavrilova with drop shots that eventually incited the Aussie into racquet-tossing fits of anger.


Three-time Rome champion Sharapova pounded away at Gavrilova’s backhand, which she sometimes sliced short in the court enabling the 31-year-old Russian to dictate baseline rallies.


Sharapova deployed the drop shot effectivel breaking for 2-1, eventually extending her lead to 5-1.


Australian Daria Gavrilova in action during her Women’s singles third round match against Russian Maria Sharapova during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 17 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO ONORATI

The feisty Gavrilova broke to start the second set and streaked through confirmation.


That’s when Sharapova’s coach came out and reminded her to keep blasting away at her opponent’s backhand wing.


“She can do nothing with her backhand… Take time away from her,” coach Thomas Hogstedt urged Sharapova when he came on court for a coaching consultation with his charge down 1-2 in the second set.


A double fault put Gavrilova in a double break-point bind and Sharapova made her pay.


Stepping into the court, the Russian rifled a forehand down the line breaking back in the fourth game.


Pulling the string on a backhand dropper, Sharapova sent a slinky winner into the frontcourt breaking for 4-2.


Festering frustration boiled over as Gavrilova belted the ball in frustration.


Refocusing the Aussie broke back in the seventh game.


Every time the spirited Gavrilova made a push, Sharapova shoved right back harder.


A fine forehand drop shot brought her triple break point and Sharapova blasted a backhand pass crosscourt that handcuffed her 5’5″ opponent breaking again for 5-3.


Closure was complicated.


Bouncing around behind the baseline as she waited to return, Gavrilova got in Sharapova’s head drawing successive double faults to break back in the ninth game.


Then it was Gavrilova’s turn to grow jittery.


Pushing a double fault into net, Gavrilova splattered her Yonex to the court then hurled it at her court side seat furious at facing match point. She saved it when Sharapova netted a forehand.


Sharapova ripped a forehand crosscourt for a third match point and hammered out the win leaving an ornery Gavrilova flinging her racquet across the court in one final fit of frustration.

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