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Maria Sharapova outlasts Jelena Ostapenko in marathon Italian Open quarter-final encounter

Defending champion Elina Svitolina also advances to Italian Open semis

Maria Sharapova
Image: Maria Sharapova is targeting her fourth Italian Open title

Maria Sharapova battled past world No 6 Jelena Ostapenko in a three-set, three-hour epic to reach the Italian Open semi-finals.

In the duo's first-ever meeting, Sharapova prevailed 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 7-5 after three hours and 13 minutes on court at Fora Italico.

The three-time champion in Rome will play top seed Simona Halep, who made sure of retaining the world No 1 ranking and secured the top seeded spot at Roland Garros by beating Caroline Garcia 6-2 6-3.

"It was nice to close things down in that way after a long match," Sharapova said. "I didn't have a great first set, I kept going. I like to smile about it.

"I appreciate this new chapter of my career, I still have lots of passion for the sport and for this life. I realise I'm towards the end of my career so I appreciate it."

Jelena Ostapenko in action against Maria Sharapova
Image: Jelena Ostapenko edged a tight first set in her first meeting with Maria Sharapova

Ostapenko took a 3-0 lead in the first set, but she failed to serve it out at 5-4 after being broken to love, having squandered two set points in the game before.

The French Open champion earned two more set points again on the Sharapova serve, but the Russian rallied to level 5-5.

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A topsy-turvy end to the set continued, as 20-year-old Ostapenko broke but could not serve it out for a second time, though she eventually prevailed in the tie-break 8-6.

The pair traded early breaks in the second set, and did so again as Sharapova squandered the advantage when 4-2 up. However, the five-time Grand Slam champion went on to level the match after breaking Ostapenko in the 10th game.

The decider remained on serve until Sharapova broke in the sixth game, but the 31-year-old was broken back by Ostapenko when serving for the match at 5-3.

Two match points came and went for Sharapova after two errors, but two games later she broke Ostapenko's resolve to finally seal a semi-final spot.

Nadal silences Fognini to march on
Nadal silences Fognini to march on

Rafael Nadal continued his surge towards an eighth Rome Masters title as he battled back to silence Fabio Fognini.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina beat Angelique Kerber to reach the last four in Rome
Image: Defending champion Elina Svitolina beat Angelique Kerber to reach the last four in Rome

Earlier in the day, defending champion Elina Svitolina advanced to the semi-finals after securing a 6-4 6-4 victory over world No 12 Angelique Kerber.

World No 4 Svitolina overcame Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Murguruza and Simone Halep to claim the title last year, and she will face Anett Kontaveit for a place in Sunday's showpiece after the Estonian raced past Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-1.

The 1000 Series continues with our coverage of the ATP Rome Masters men's semi-finals on Sky Sports Action from 1.30pm & 6pm on Saturday.

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