Italian Open 2012: Maria Sharapova Looks To Defend Title Against Li Na

Maria Sharapova will try to return to the top of the world while defending her title in Rome.

She'll meet Li Na in the finals of the Italian Open. Earlier this season in Miami, Sharapova gave up only three games to Li Na. However, last year at Roland Garros, Li Na eked past Sharapova in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.

Now, it's Rome. It's the first match they'll meet on clay since Li Na defeated Sharapova on the red dirt during the French Open semifinals (Na eventually went on to win the Slam). The Russian and the Chinese tennis phenoms have faced each other on clay in a WTA event only one other time: at the French Open in 2009. Sharapova won that match-up.

Sharapova advanced to the final after defeating Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 6-4. Li Na didn't even play her semifinal match against Serena Williams. The American withdrew shortly before the start of the match with a lower back injury.

So, based on past matches: Na and Sharapova are 1-1 on clay. In their 10-match history, Sharapova has won six matches (five straight from 2005 to 2009).

Happy finals day, ladies, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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