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WTA Rome • Halep | Sharapova And Svitolina | Kontaveit Semis Saturday • Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit prepares to serve to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki during their women’s singles quarter final match of the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 18 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO ONORATI

 

 

It’s been a thrilling week of hard-fought, dramatic clay-court tennis this week at the Foro Italico as all the top stars of the WTA battle for the most prestigious crown on the Road to Roland Garros and the final major stop ahead of the second major of the season in Paris.

 

With the top seeds and in-form players of the moment backing up their rankings and results, the semifinal spots in Rome have gone largely as expected (just as I predicted all four semifinalists correctly earlier this week), and some juicy last four matchups await, with an intriguing contrast in styles in both.

 

Here’s what to look for in the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinals:

 

Halep vs. Sharapova

Romanian Simona Halep in action during her Women’s singles quarter final match against French Caroline Garcia at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 18 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO ONORATI

Very few rivalries have defined clay-court success and produced as many dramatic matches in the last five years than the duels between world number one Simona Halep and five-time major winner Maria Sharapova and fans will be in for treat with the third meeting between the two since Sharapova’s comeback began.

 

After a dramatic and important victory for Sharapova over Halep in a blockbuster US Open first round last year, the Romanian turned the tide a month later in Beijing, but it is a different Sharapova of late as the two-time French Open champion has begun to find her best clay-court form. A three-time Rome champion, Sharapova battled through lengthy, tense three-setters against Dominika Cibulkova and defending Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the last four and is finally looking like the confident and powerful Sharapova of old.

 

For Halep, the world number one is still seeking an elusive major title, however the fight and ability is there as she prepares for another great chance in a weeks time in Paris. Halep has been in imperious form this week at the Foro Italico, where she made the final last year, dropping just six games through her two matches and a walkover to the last four in Rome. Sharapova has been the roadblock in the career of Halep, but the Romanian has looked impressive this week and should have more left in the tank than her Russian counterpart.

Prediction: Halep in straight sets

 

Svitolina vs. Kontaveit

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in action against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki during their women’s singles quarter final match of the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 18 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO ONORATI

Another sharp contrast in styles awaits as two women with impressive success on clay, yet very different ways of achieving it, go head to head for a spot in the Rome final. The defending Italian Open champion, Svitolina has shown the form that led her to the title here last year, fighting back against Daria Kasatkina and impressing against Angelique Kerber yesterday.

 

However, big-hitting Estonian Anett Kontaveit has been on a tear of late, going deep in both Stuttgart and Madrid, losing to the eventual champions at both, and has backed up her quarterfinal run here last year with a trip to the last four in 2018. After convincing victories over Coco Vandeweghe, Venus Williams, and Caroline Wozniacki, Kontaveit is back to playing with the confidence and conviction that make her so potent on this surface and the Estonian has all the goods to knock off the defending champion for a spot in the biggest final of her career.

Prediction: Kontaveit in three sets

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