ROME (AP) — Roger Federer will renew his rivalry with Novak Djokovic in the Italian Open final on Sunday, giving the 17-time Grand Slam champion another chance to add an elusive title to his collection.
Federer dispatched Swiss countryman Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-2 in less than an hour in the semifinals on Saturday, while the top-ranked Djokovic delivered his best performance of the week, downing David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4.
Along with Monte Carlo, Rome is one of only two Masters series titles that Federer has never won.
“I just like winning a title. Now OK, this is Rome, and it’s one I’ve never won so you might think it’s extra special but for some reason it’s not for me,” Federer said.
In women’s action, Maria Sharapova reached the final by overpowering qualifier Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Russian matchup.
Sharapova will play for her third Rome title against Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who fought through her nerves and rallied past second-seeded Simona Halep 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
This is the last big warmup for the French Open, which starts next weekend.
Federer fell behind 3-0 at the start of the evening match but then won three straight games, broke to take a 5-4 lead, and rolled on.
The only truly worrisome moment for him came midway through the first set when his feet got stuck in a hole on the court that gave Djokovic and Sharapova trouble earlier in the day. Federer was wrong-footed when Wawrinka hit behind him and couldn’t turn around.
Workers came onto the court during the middle of the game to smooth the clay over.
“I hope they can fix it to some extent for tomorrow,” Federer said. “But even if they don’t, we’ll get through it.”
Wawrinka put on an impressive performance to beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and didn’t have much energy left.
“I wasn’t there today unfortunately and, against Roger, when you’re not 100 percent and don’t feel good, it can be really fast,” he said.
Federer had 18 winners to Wawrinka’s 14, and won 12 of 14 points at the net.
This will be Federer’s fourth final at the Foro Italico in 15 appearances: He was beaten by Felix Mantilla in 2003, by Nadal in a fifth-set tiebreaker in 2006, and by Nadal again in 2013.
“Tomorrow, I feel like I have a chance to play for it,” Federer said. “Novak is not Rafa on clay so it’s a totally different situation. I’ve done fairly well against him in the past.”
Djokovic lost a set in each of his three previous matches this week, looking rusty from three weeks off. But he was solid from the start against Ferrer, using one break in each set to take control and extend his winning streak to 21 matches.
“Comparing to the previous matches, this was definitely the best so far,” Djokovic said. “It’s satisfying, and giving me reason to believe I can play at this level and maybe even better tomorrow.
“I did have some ups and downs in terms of overall performance in my first three matches. Today, consistency was the right word to use.”
Djokovic’s only complaint concerned the court.
“In a couple of places the holes are really deep,” Djokovic said. “If you slide and get into that hole you can twist an ankle easily. It’s dangerous to play in these conditions.”
Seeking his third Rome title, and second straight, Djokovic will take a 20-18 edge in the career series with Federer into the final. They split their two meetings this year, both on hard courts.
Sharapova hit 27 winners to Gavrilova’s 10 and recovered a break early in the second set.
Aiming for her second career title, Suarez Navarro improved to 4-0 in her career against Halep on clay. She created trouble for the Romanian with her one-handed backhand and looping shots.
“Her style is to hit the ball very high. It disturbs me, and I couldn’t hit anymore in the third set,” Halep said.
Suarez Navarro needed seven set points to close out the second set and three to end the third. The match lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf
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