Svitolina beats Kontaveit to return to Italian Open final

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns the ball to Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)

ROME (AP) ��� Defending champion Elina Svitolina returned to the Italian Open final with a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 win over 26th-ranked Anna Kontaveit on Saturday.

Aiming for the third title defense in her career, Svitolina will face either top-ranked Simona Halep or three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova in Sunday’s championship match on the red clay of the Foro Italico.

“I’m happy with the way I handled today under pressure and all this week,” Svitolina said. “I know there is one match to go and I will give it my best shot tomorrow.”

The fourth-ranked Svitolina produced only 18 winners to Kontaveit’s 24 but also committed fewer unforced errors – 13 to 20 – in a match that lasted 74 minutes.

“I was really solid with my performance and I was really proud that I could stay consistent for the entire match,” Svitolina said.

Kontaveit, an Estonian, could still be pleased with a week that saw her eliminate four established players: 12th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe, two-time finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova, 1999 champion Venus Williams and second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.

“She was really tough today and played great,” Kontaveit said. “So I’m just taking the positives from this week.”

Halep and Sharapova were meeting later on a warm day in the Italian capital, after Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic resume their rivalry.

In the other men’s semifinal, it’s defending champion Alexander Zverev against Marin Cilic.

In last year’s final, Svitolina came back to beat Halep after the Romanian rolled her ankle.

This is the last major warmup before the French Open starts next weekend.

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