Carla Suarez Navarro is one win away from an Italian affair to remember…
The 26-year-old Spanish tennis player beat Romania’s Simona Halep 2-6 6-3 7-5 at the Italian Open to reach her ninth career final.
“It was such a tough match from a physical standpoint,” Suarez Navarro told SuperTennis TV. “The biggest improvement I’ve made this year is in my mind.”
Suarez Navarro, who leads the tour this year in wins with 31, won the opening two games but once Halep settled down she started to dominate the rallies with her precise ground strokes.
Halep reeled off six straight games to take the opening set.
An easy miss off of a bounced overhead in the third game of the following set seemed to rattle Halep’s confidence as she became more tentative, especially on her forehand.
Suarez Navarro took advantage to take the lead as Halep’s frustration became clearly visible after she cracked her racket in distress in the sixth game.
With more time to hit, the Spaniard forced a decider repeatedly running Halep around the court with her breath-taking one-handed backhand.
Neither player could hold serve in the first eight games of the decider before Halep led to lead 5-4.
Suarez Navarro then got her service game together and after breaking again to lead 6-5, finally got over the line with her third match point.
“Her style is to hit the ball very high. It disturbs me, and I couldn’t hit anymore in the third set,” Halep said.
She’ll next face two-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova, who reached the final by overpowering qualifier Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Russian matchup.