Madrid – Maria Sharapova secured her place in the final of the Madrid Open for the second consecutive year with a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 win over Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.
The four-time Grand Slam champion will face Romanian Simona
Halep in Sunday's final as she ground out a hard-fought 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2 victory over fifth seed Petra Kvitova.
Sharapova has slowly begun to hit form in recent weeks on her return to clay conditions after a difficult start to the year and she stormed through the opening set for the loss of just 11 points.
The Russian was dominant again at the start of the second as she raced into a 3-0 lead, but Radwanska battled back to take four straight games and lead 4-3 with a break.
Unfortunately for the third seed, though, she gifted the break straight back and Sharapova also took the next two games to round off victory in little over an hour.
Earlier, Halep booked her place in her first ever final of a mandatory event after outlasting Kvitova after over two-and-a-half hours on court.
“It was a very tough match today. I couldn't believe that I came from behind again. She played really well and she was fighting the whole match,” said Halep.
“I'm very excited that I can play in my biggest final tomorrow. I hope that I can control my emotions and just play.
“I just have to enjoy it. I'm really happy that I can play the final here in Madrid.”
However, the 22-year-old is aware of the size of the task that awaits her in Sharapova having lost in their only two meetings to date.
“Tomorrow I expect a very tough match. Maria is a champion and she knows how to manage the finals.”
After just one break apiece it was Kvitova who edged a first set tie-break and the Czech looked on her way to her first final of the season when she led 3-1 early in the second.
Halep responded by taking the next seven games to level at one set all and go an early break ahead in the decider.
The fourth seed then broke the Kvitova serve once more to move ahead 5-2 and served the match out in the next game.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match,” said Kvitova.
“She beat me in the New Haven final, so I was looking forward to revenge. It was a long match and was a good fight throughout. She was just better in the end, but it was still a good match for me.” – Sapa-AFP