World no. 3 and two-time Madrid champion is through to the fourth semi-final at the Spanish capital following a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 win over Ashleigh Barty in an hour and 31 minutes. This was their fourth encounter and the third win for the Romanian who lost to the Aussie in Sydney in January, snapping Barty's 11-match winning streak and securing the 24th win here in the last 24 clashes!
Serving at 87%, Simona lost 19 points in 12 service games and saved two out of four break points to mount the pressure on Ashleigh who couldn't deal with it in the end. Losing 42% of the points behind the initial shot, Barty suffered four breaks from nine chances offered to the Romanian, spraying almost 40 errors and failing to deliver her best tennis when it mattered the most, despite a great effort.
Simona drew first blood in the fifth game, opening a 5-3 lead before Ashleigh broke back with a forehand down the line winner in game ten to level the score at 5-5 and prolong the set. Halep earned another break in the next game and sealed the opener with a backhand crosscourt winner on own serve for a 7-5.
World no. 3 forged an early lead in the second set with a break at love in the opening game, staying in front until game eight when Barty broke back for more drama, giving her best to overpower the more experienced clay-courter.
The decisive moment occurred in the 11th game when Halep grabbed another break, wrapping up the victory with a forehand down the line winner to stay on the title course. "Rome is a wonderful city. It's one of the first things that I do when I get to Rome, is always spend the afternoon looking around.
I went for a walk the other day, it was beautiful. It's just such a nice city to visit. I have very fond memories from here, most recently from doubles last year. I'm looking forward this year in trying to play a few more singles matches and continue to learn more about the clay, prepare for Roland Garros as best I can.
I think the more matches that you play, the more confident you get, the more comfortable you are. I think for me, I know that I can play consistent tennis week in, week out. That's the most important thing. If I get beaten by my opponent, it's too good.
I think I do the best that I can to make sure she has to work as hard as she can to beat me. Every single match, you can win or lose. I think I go into it viewing it that way."