Simona Halep came from a set down to defeat Maria Sharapova and set up a repeat of last year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia final against Elina Svitolina in Rome.
Sharapova has produced her best week since defeating Halep on her way to the fourth round of the US Open last summer, and again seriously troubled the world number one.
But her epic victory over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals must have taken its toll and, after Sharapova won the first set, Halep fought back to triumph 4-6 6-1 6-4.
Sharapova’s New York win was her seventh from seven meetings with Halep. The Romanian did break her duck in Beijing last autumn but clearly does not feel comfortable against the Russian and did not hold serve at all in the opening set.
She was much more solid in the second while the third again featured numerous breaks of serve, but it was Halep who claimed the crucial one in the final game.
The Romanian will now hope to reverse the result of 12 months ago, when a twisted ankle hampered her in a three-set loss to Svitolina, who was a 6-4 6-3 winner over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit on Saturday.
The world number four has so far been unable to match her results on the WTA Tour at grand slam level but should be a real threat at the French Open, where she should have beaten Halep in the quarter-finals last summer.
The Ukrainian said on wtatennis.com: “Today, I think I was very solid with my performance. This was really, really good. I’m very proud of this, that I could stay really consistent all match.
“Last year I was more gaining experience, gaining confidence. This year I tried to think that this is a part of my game, a part of me. I’m happy the way I handled (it) and the way I played under pressure this week against some really good players.
“This is what I have been looking for and I did it well. I know there is one match to go, and I will give my best shot tomorrow.”