Simona Halep overcame Viktorija Golubic at Summer Set. AAP/PA Images
Land down under

Fit-again Halep battles into Melbourne semi-finals as Barty wins in Adelaide

Preparations are ramping up for the Australian Open.

TWO-TIME GRAND SLAM champion Simona Halep laboured into the last four of the Melbourne Summer Set Friday to stay on track for a final showdown with Naomi Osaka.

The former world number one, whose season was blighted by injury last year, overcame Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena, but it was a hard slog.

“It was really difficult I have to admit,” said Halep, who missed Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympics last year with a calf injury and ended her season early due to a knee issue.

“I didn’t believe I could win this match but I fought till the end and I’m very proud of this.”

She was in charge in the first set but her killer instinct deserted her in the second, broken when serving for 5-3 then again when serving for the match, racking up 23 unforced errors.

They traded breaks in the third set until Halep dug deep, saving four break points in the seventh game then breaking in the ninth to clock a tough win.

Now ranked 20, she will play Zheng Qin-wen in the last four after the 126th-ranked Chinese player upset Croatia’s Ana Konjuh 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (8/6).

Top seed Osaka faces veteran German Andrea Petkovic later Friday while Veronika Kudermetova takes on fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova in the other quarter-finals.

Halep was an Australian Open finalist in 2018 when she lost to the now-retired Caroline Wozniacki, and said having time on Rod Laver Arena Friday was great preparation.

“I’m really happy I have the chance to get used to this court and this atmosphere. It’s nice to be back and to be actually fit even if I didn’t play my best tennis today,” she said.

There are two simultaneous WTA events being run as part of the Melbourne Summer Set.

At the other event, American Amanda Anisimova came through a tough test against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a last-four clash against 26th-ranked Russian Daria Kasatkina who beat Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-5, 6-1.

In the other quarter-finals, American Ann Li faces Russian Kamilla Rakhimova and Swiss teenager Clara Tauson is up against Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Elsewhere, world number one Ashleigh Barty fired off 17 aces as she downed former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International.

Barty was in superb form as she saw off world number 12 Kenin in just 68 minutes of quality tennis.

The 25-year-old Australian served beautifully, winning 31 of 32 points on her first serve and nine of 16 on her second, not giving Kenin any opportunities to break.

By contrast, Kenin’s serve was not nearly as effective and while she was only broken once in each set, she struggled to hold throughout.

The American’s chances were also not helped by the 26 unforced errors she made, many coming from her forehand side.

Barty, who has not played a tournament since taking a pandemic-enforced break at the end of last September’s US Open, has had a tough run at the season-opening Adelaide tournament.

She had a first-round bye before beating rising American star Coco Gauff in three sets in the second round and then facing Kenin in the quarter-finals.

And her path doesn’t get any easier, with her semi-final opponent to be either in-form Iga Swiatek or former world number one Victoria Azarenka.

“That’s what you want,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to come out here and be really tested from the start and know you have to bring your very best level.

“Looking at both these previous two matches, there’s still work to be done, but it’s been a really solid start and we’re happy with the foundation we’ve set to start the year off.”

Seventh seed Elena Rybakina moved into the final four with a come behind win over American Shelby Rogers.

The towering Rybakina struggled on serve in the first set but recovered to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

She will take on Misaki Doi in the semi-finals after the Japanese player downed Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5).

In the men’s draw, top seed Gael Monfils cruised into the semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-1 win over American Tommy Paul.

He was joined in the last four by third seed Marin Cilic, who beat Slovenia’s Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-2.

– © AFP 2022

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