Halep victorious in epic Sharapova encounter

World No 1 Simona Halep made hard work of her semi-final victory over Maria Sharapova at the Italian Open on Saturday.

The Romanian looked totally out of sorts in the first set before managing to turn her form around in the second and third to secure a hard-fought 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

The match started in highly unusual circumstances, with both players trading breaks seemingly at will for most of the first set.

By the end of the 48-minute opener, Sharapova had taken it 6-4 despite only holding her serve once. As for Halep, she could not even lay claim to that dubious distinction, having been broken five straight times.

But Halep appeared to snap out of whatver funk she was in at the start of the second set, dramatically lifting her first and second serve points won percentages, and reducing her error count.

She raced through the second set courtesy of three unanswered breaks, but would suffer another bout of nerves in the decider as her serve once again started to look shaky.

Luckily for Halep, she continued to cause Sharapova plenty of troubles of her own, and ultimately won the third set courtesy of four breaks to three to clinch victory after two hours and 26 minutes.

Awaiting her in Sunday’s final is fourth seed Elina Svitolina, who needed just one hour and 15 minutes to dismiss Anna Kontaveit 6-4, 6-3 in the day’s first semi-final.

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