Rome, May 17 (Reuters): Fourth seed Amelie Mauresmo inflicted only the second defeat of the year on world No. 1 Serena Williams in the Rome Masters semi-finals on Saturday.
The reward for her hard-fought 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory is a final showdown against second seed Kim Clijsters, who crushed Japanís Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2.
The defending champion dominated the first set, playing perfect power tennis and rifling groundstroke winners to close out the set in just 21 minutes.
In the second set, Mauresmo started positively, holding her serve to love and breaking Serena. But then she hit two double faults at 30-30 in the following game to surrender the advantage.
In the ninth game, Serena grabbed a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve for the match, but she lost her next two service games, allowing Mauresmo to draw level.
Mauresmo twice fought back from a break down in the decider before profiting from three wide forehands in the eighth game to snatch a 5-3 lead. She then calmly served out the match.