ROME - Spanish 10th seed Carla Suarez kept herself in contention for only her second career title by squeezing past Simona Halep of Romania 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 and into the final of the Italian Open on Saturday.
Suarez, whose only tournament win to date was at Oeiras in 2014, defeated both Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Czech fourth seed Petra Kvitova on her way to a last-four match-up with Halep in Rome.
But the Barcelona-based player had to dig deep against the second-seeded Romanian before securing a final against either Maria Sharapova, the third seed, or her fellow Russian Daria Gavrilova.
Halep, who had ended the hopes of Venus Williams in the third round before sweeping compatriot Alexandra Dulgheru aside in the quarter-finals, was unstoppable in the first set.
But the Romanian fell victim to unforced errors throughout a second set that saw her Spanish opponent level the match.
It could have gone either way in the decider after Suarez took her lead to 6-5 in the final set.
But the 26-year-old Spaniard secured match point with a great shot down the right hand side of the court with Halep stranded at the net, and sealed the win when the Romanian netted a return.
Sharapova is bidding for her third title in Rome having last won in 2012.
Defending champion Serena Williams pulled out of the competition on Thursday citing an elbow problem.