May 19 (Reuters) - Defending champion Elina Svitolina reached the final of the Italian Open on Saturday after putting in a clinical performance to beat unseeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-4 6-3.
The Ukrainian fourth seed bided her time and struck at key moments in the match in a display that bodes well for her chances at the French Open later this month.
The 22-year-old Kontaveit offered stiff resistance, hitting 24 winners to Svitolina’s 18, but her opponent converted four of her five break point opportunities while making seven fewer unforced errors in a contest of tight margins.
Svitolina, who beat former world number one Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals, started well, breaking early in the first set to go 2-0 up, but Kontaveit held her nerve to take the next three games and edge in front.
With the opener tied at 3-3, Svitolina made her move, coming to the net behind a deep cross-court forehand and displaying a delicate touch to guide a volley into the open court and coax another break point from her opponent that she converted.
The 23-year-old then saved two break points on her own serve and held on to take the opener.
With Svitolina’s speed proving decisive, Kontaveit was forced to mix things up, but the baseliner’s touch deserted her at times in the second set, allowing the speedy Ukrainian to run down a couple of poorly disguised drop shots.
The world number four rode her forehand to an early break in the second set, taking a 2-1 lead, and won the match on her opponent’s serve, converting her second match point with a deep forehand that left Kontaveit flailing.
World number one Simona Halep faces Russian Maria Sharapova in the other semi-final later on Saturday. (Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru Editing by Toby Davis)