Rome appears to have been the catalyst for comebacks on both tours with former champions finding their form on both sides. Novak Djokovic is in his first semi final for a long time while Maria Sharapova is now in the semis on the WTA side, only her second of the year. She reignites her rivalry with the current World No.2, Simona Halep. The head to head is actually 7-1 in the Russian’s favour but the pair have played some thrillers in the past, most notably the French Open final of 2014.
Halep will move back to the No.1 spot after Caroline Wozniacki lost at the quarter finals stage. It means that Halep is currently back at the top spot with very few top level achievements to her name but she does remain the favourite to take the title this weekend. After getting a third round walkover, Halep has dropped just six games in the two matches she has played to make the semi finals. She beat Caroline Garcia 6-2 6-3, breaking the Frenchwoman 7 times in victory.
Maria Sharapova would have to work extremely hard for her victory, edging a thriller against Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 6-4 7-5. She showed plenty of fight, saving 4 set points in the opener before falling in the tiebreak. The comeback began once Sharapova fell down a break to begin the second set although she would continue to remain vulnerable on serve. Up 5-2 in the decider, it looked down but last year’s French Open champion would save match points on her way to tying it up at 5-all, only to falter when serving to stay in the match down 5-6. Sharapova would make no mistake on her third match point, powering a backhand down the line for a winner. “It’s always nice to have a battle with a few ups and downs, and to finish strong,” Sharapova told the media, following her victory. “To get through a match like this against a really high-quality opponent and to end up winning it, I’m quite proud of the effort.”
There seems no better opportunity for Halep to get a first clay win over Sharapova, having lost twice already on the surface. Only missing a French Open title, the Romanian is still the top player on the surface and getting over the mental block with Sharapova can only help her heading into Paris in a few weeks.
Prediction – Simona Halep in three sets