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Serena, Keys to meet in all-American final in Rome

ROME, ITALY - MAY 14: Madison Keys of the United States in action against Garbine Muguruza of Spain during day seven of The Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2016 on May 14, 2016 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
May 14, 2016 03:38 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Madison Keys will compete for her second career WTA title on Sunday when she squares off against fellow American and world No. 1 Serena Williams in the final of the Internazionali BNP D’Italia in Rome.

It will be the third meeting between Keys and Williams and their first contest outside of a Grand Slam. Williams won both previous contests in straight sets, ending Keys’ breakout run to the Australian Open semifinals in 2015 and then again in the round of 16 at the US Open last summer.

Keys, currently ranked No. 24, advanced to the Rome final with wins over Andrea Petkovic in Round 1, No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round and Timea Babos of Hungary in the third round. Keys outlasted Barbora Stryvova in a tight three-set affair in the quarters before dispatching third-seeded Garbine Muguruza, 7-6(5), 6-4, in the semifinals.

The win means Keys (pictured above) will play in her third championship match in as many years. Her only tour-level victory came on the grass of Wimbledon warmup event Eastbourne in 2014 when she defeated Angelique Kerber. The Rock Island, Ill., native also reached the final of Charleston last spring, losing to Kerber in three sets.

The 21-year-old’s run is a continuation of her successful 2015 campaign in which she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, the fourth round of the US Open and the third round of the French Open. Her performances saw her reach a career-high ranking of No. 16 in May and finish the year inside the Top 20 for the first time at No. 18.

For Williams, she will be playing for her fourth Rome title and the 70th overall title of her illustrious career. She lifted her first trophy in the Italian capital back in 2002, and she won back-to-back titles in 2013-14. Top-seeded Williams, who had a bye in the first round, has yet to drop a set this week on the red clay.

She defeated Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round and American qualifier Christina McHale in Round 3. Williams thrashed No. 9 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the only seed she has faced this week, 6-2, 6-0, in Friday’s quarterfinals before booking her place in the final with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Irina-Camelia Begu.

Regardless of the outcome, the week leaves both women in good form entering the French Open, which begins on May 23. Williams is the defending champion at Roland Garros, where she is a three-time winner.