Top seed and holder Maria Sharapova battled through a tough three-set clay-court match for the third day in a row on Saturday to book a place in the final of the Stuttgart Grand Prix.
The Russian ended the challenge of home favorite Angelique Kerber, beating the third seed 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 to set up a title showdown with Li Na of China, who put out American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 6-3.
Sharapova, who was also taken to three sets by Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic on Thursday and by Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic 24 hours later, has an excellent record when she is taken the distance.
The world No. 2 had won 28 of her previous 31 three-set encounters and it was the Russian’s extra aggression that proved the key against Kerber.
World No. 5 Li enjoyed a more straightforward passage into the final as she swept past Mattek-Sands in straight sets.
The Australian Open runner-up is looking to improve on her past record against Sharapova, having lost eight of their previous 13 meetings.
GRAND PRIX SAR
AP, MARRAKECH, Morocco
Francesca Schiavone beat South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 to set up a Grand Prix SAR final against Lourdes Dominguez Lino, who overcame a slow start to beat Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 on Saturday.
Schiavone broke Scheepers’ serve three times in the second set, in which the sixth-seeded Italian saved two break points on her own serve.
Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion now ranked 48th, is through to her first final of the year, and goes for her sixth title and first since winning the Strasbourg Open in May last year.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a final, so I’m really happy,” said Schiavone, who had not dropped a set in Morocco.
She leads Dominguez Lino 3-1 in head-to-head meetings. The 32-year-old veterans first played each other 15 years ago on clay in Spoleto, Italy, where the Spaniard beat Schiavone for the only time.
Dominguez Lino, who secured three consecutive breaks in the deciding set, goes for her third title and her first since winning in Bogota, Colombia, in February 2011, when she also beat Minella on her way to the title.
Minella broke Dominguez Lino’s serve three times in the first set, but the Spaniard saved six break points and broke Minella’s serve three times in the second.