Simona Halep reached the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Saturday. The Romanian advanced into the penultimate round after her opponent, Yulia Putintseva was forced to quit their quarter-final mid-match with an injury to her lower back.
Earlier Putintseva had played two back-to-back lengthy matches in the second and third rounds against Petra Martic and Elena Rybakina. At the time of Putintseva’s retirement, Halep was leading 6-2, 2-0. This is the fifth time Halep has reached the semi-finals in the Italian capital.
She has lost twice at this stage in 2013 and 2015, and has made the finals on two other occasions in 2017 and 2018, losing out to Elina Svitolina both times. Halep’s semi-final opponent will be Garbine Muguruza. Discussing the match-up, the tournament top seed said, “Every time I played well against her, [I was] as much as possible aggressive.
If I play my best game and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she's playing so hard. You don't really know what to expect. It's tough every time.
So, I don't plan for a specific match, because you never know on court”. The ninth-seeded Muguruza topped Victoria Azarenka who had looked to be impressive and en route to stringing a new series of consecutive wins on clay much like she had done in the American swing just a month before.
The Spaniard won their match 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 19 minutes. The match swung heavily between the two former world no. 1s but Muguruza held her own in the tighter moments of the play, which eventually helped her make it to the semi-finals of the event for the third time in her career.
“I was in the right place when the opportunity came and I took it. At the end of third set, it was just a matter of one-game difference. I'm happy I played the right shots and I stood aggressive. I went for the match the whole time.
Never felt down. I went for the match,” Muguruza said, post-match.
Internazionali BNL d'Italia SF: Karolina Pliskova v Marketa Vondrousova
In the second half, the other semi-final will be a Czech derby between the second seed Karoline Pliskova and 12th seed Marketa Vondrousova.
Pliskova, who is the defending champion this week, needed two hours and eight minutes to overcome the 11th seed Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. The world no. 4 was untroubled as she started the match but lost her focus in the second set and Mertens upped the ante to level the match.
Pliskova’s regrouping in the third set gave Mertens no opportunity to extend her second-set momentum or the match from her higher-ranked opponent. Speaking in the post-match press conference, Pliskova said, “I think I played a great match.
Even the second set I think there was some good moments. But just started way too strong in the third, and I think definitely was maybe one of the best matches of course of this season, but it's not so difficult because there (were) not many matches.
I felt great. Especially the first set I think was maybe one of my best sets that I have played on clay ever”. Meanwhile, Vondrousova upset the fourth-seeded Svitolina in straight sets 6-3, 6-0 in just an hour and 20 minutes.
This is the first Premier 5 final for the 21-year-old. Her clash at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia against Pliskova will be their second career meeting with Pliskova winning their previous match at the 2019 Miami Open. Photo Credit: Internazionali BNL d'Italia Twitter