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Maria Sharapova remains on course for a third WTA Internazionali d’Italia title as she joined Simona Halep in the last four.

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Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep wasted little time in booking their spots in the semi-finals of the WTA Internazionali d’Italia on Friday.Two-time winner Sharapova, looking to build momentum ahead of her French Open defence, comfortably defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-2 in her quarter-final contest on the clay courts of Rome.

The third seed survived two break points in a nervy opening game, before breaking in the fourth for a 3-1 lead.

Sharapova handed that advantage straight back, but she broke again for 4-2 before the rest of the set went with serve.

The Russian broke serve on two more occasions in the second set, while also showing her fighting qualities to fend off a break point for Azarenka when leading 4-1.

Sharapova next meets Daria Gavrilova, who was a comfortable 6-2 6-4 winner over Christina McHale.

World number two Halep was in no mood to hang around as she defeated fellow Romanian and long-time friend Alexandra Dulgheru 6-1 6-0.

The second seed, who had dropped just six games before the quarter-final contest, showed her intent with some devastating forehands, and her pin-point ground strokes in the second set saw her complete a comprehensive victory.

Awaiting Halep in the semi-finals is Carla Suarez Navarro, who continued a brilliant season to dispatch fourth seed Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-2.

The Spaniard is the first woman to reach 30 wins for the season, but faces a difficult task against Halep – an opponent she has not beaten in two years.

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