French qualifier Alize Cornet stormed into the final of the Rome International on Saturday, dropping her first set of the tournament to Russian sixth seed Anna Chakvetadze before winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The 18-year-old will face defending champion Jelena Jankovic after the Serbian fourth seed booked her place in the final without hitting a ball when Maria Sharapova pulled out of their scheduled semi-final with a calf injury.
If Cornet wins, it will be her third top 10 scalp of the tournament.
“It’s my second top ten in two days, and why not a third one tomorrow?” said Cornet, ranked 34th in the world.
The teenager from Nice was to have faced sixth-ranked Serena Williams in the quarter-final, but the American pulled out with a back injury.
In Saturday’s semi-final, Cornet recovered from a set down and 0-3 in the second before the tables began to turn as the Moscovite world No. 8 unleashed a string of errors including two double faults.
Cornet said she found her fighting spirit after contemplating losing 6-3, 6-0.
“I was afraid of being ridiculous,” said Cornet, who won the junior tournament at Roland Garros last year.
The Russian’s errors continued as Cornet, helped by a solid serve, got back into the match, winning the second set at 6-4 before going on to win the third 6-3.
Cornet met Jankovic at the US Open last year, when she lost to her in the second round while winning a set.
Sharapova, who will become the World No. 1 after Justine Henin’s retirement, had a marathon match with Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder at the claycourt tournament.
“In part it’s my fault for making some of the matches longer than they should be,” Sharapova said.
But the Russian also complained of tough playing conditions in Rome.
“For some people, like me, I had two night matches, two late nights ... It’s a pretty short turnaround to be able to compete,” she said.