The 4th seed Karolina Pliskova is through to her 25th WTA final and the most significant one on the slowest surface, ousting Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 28 minutes. Struggling with injury and fitness, the Czech lost early in Stuttgart and Madrid but she has found her 'A game' on clay in the Italian capital, prevailing over an in-form Greek in the crucial moments to set Johanna Konta clash on Sunday.
A year ago, Sakkari prevailed over Pliskova 7-5 in the third set here in Rome before Karolinas smashed the umpire's chair with the racquet in frustration, playing on a higher level this time around and delivering better numbers in the decisive moments to cross the finish line first.
They faced five break points each and Sakkari couldn't endure the pressure in those, suffering four breaks and pulling back only one to finish on the losing side, hitting more winners than Pliskova but also more errors.
The first set was fast and fluid and it offered only one deuce, with Maria forging a 4-2 advantage following a break at love in game three. Facing an even bigger deficit, Karolina repelled a break point at 2-4 after an excellent rally and pulled the break back at 15 in the next game when Sakkar's forehand landed long.
With the momentum on her side, Pliskova delivered another break in game ten, rattling off the last four points and moving 6-4 up after 41 minutes. Both players had their chances in the opening six games of the second set but servers remained composed to erase them and stay neck and neck, setting up an exciting enclosure.
After saving a couple of break points in the fifth game, Karolina held at love twice in a row and broke back at love in the best possible moment at 5-4 to cross the finish line and celebrate an important win that propels her into the third final of the season after Brisbane and Miami.