MELBOURNE: World number one Simona Halep overcame a nervous start to batter sixth seed Karolina Pliskova into submission in their Australian Open quarter-final on Wednesday.
The Romanian reeled off nine games in a row and 12 of the last 14 games to recover from 0-3 en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory 1hr 11min on Rod Laver Arena.
“It’s really nice to be in the semis,” said Halep after moving into the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time, where she will face 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Halep had taken three sets to beat Pliskova in their previous meeting, a semi-final at Roland Garros last year, and started shakily, struggling to time her serve or groundstrokes.
But once she saved a break point at 0-3 to get on the scoreboard, her confidence grew against an opponent who has never gone beyond the last eight in Melbourne.
“For sure it wasn’t my best start but I knew I had to restart after three games to stop missing and move better,” said Halep, whose relentless chasing and powerful groundstrokes overwhelmed her taller, tattooed opponent.
“I started to open the court and play my style, and I served well today. Everything went pretty much my way,” added Halep who showed no fitness concerns after carrying a painful ankle throughout the tournament.
She moved smoothly and freely throughout and will be glad to have got off court so quickly. The Romanian had confessed to be “aching everywhere” after being taken to 15-13 in the third set of a marathon third-round match against Lauren Davis.
Pliskova was the top-rated server on the WTA Tour in 2017 but it took her until the sixth game of the second set to record her first ace.
A second followed on the next point but the match was already gone and Halep moved into her an enticing clash against former number one Kerber.
Kerber, seeded 21, is in form and will return to the world’s top 10 on the back of a 14-match winning streak in Australia.
Earlier, the German enjoyed a similarly dominant romp past last year’s US Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.
“For sure Kerber is going to be different,” said Halep.
“She’s moving pretty well and returning the ball very strong and many in the court.
“I have to be ready in my legs and be calm. I have to dominate the match and try to finish the point. Just try to play my best.”