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ROME, May 16 (Reuters) - For the first time this week Novak Djokovic needed only two sets to triumph at the Rome Masters, beating Spain's David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 as he reached the final to close in on a 24th Masters 1000 title.
The world number one will face Roger Federer or Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday's final at the Foro Italico where he will be bidding for a fourth title in this event.
In the women's tournament there was better fortune for a Spanish player with Carla Suarez Navarro defeating Romania's Simona Halep 2-6 6-3 7-5 to reach her ninth career final.
Suarez Navarro next meets twice Rome champion Maria Sharapova who downed Russian qualifier Daria Gavrilova 7-5 6-3.
Djokovic's winning streak now stands at 21 matches but he has been made to work hard this week with close-fought victories over Nicolas Almagro, Thomaz Bellucci and Kei Nishikori.
He seemed to move up a level against Ferrer with a clinical display. The top seed needed two breaks of serve to clinch a ninth consecutive win over the Spaniard.
"I played the best match of the week," Djokovic told Sky Sports Italia. "I'm satisfied with the way I played and happy to be in another final in Rome."
Djokovic's only frustration was the state of the Centrale court and he repeatedly complained about the condition of the clay.
"That's the one thing I could have handled better. I should've been less nervous as there was nothing I could do about the court," he said.
Sharapova had to work extremely hard to defeat fellow Russian Gavrilova who left the court after the 11th game for treatment to an abdominal muscle injury and was clearly hampered on her return.
"She was obviously affected by it when serving," Sharapova
said. "But once you got into the rallies she moved and defended very well."
Suarez Navarro is the form player on the WTA Tour this year with 31 wins but she was two points away from losing in the 10th game of the final set before turning the tide.
"It was such a tough match from a physical standpoint," she said. "The biggest improvement I've made this year is in my mind."
Editing by Martyn Herman