Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber set up intriguing semi-final
Halep thrashes Pliskova while 2016 champion Kerber eases past America’s Keys
Simona Halep celebrates winning her quarter-final against Karolina Pliskova. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty
World number one Halep has had a rollercoaster ride in Melbourne, suffering an ankle injury in the first round and then surviving three match points before beating Lauren Davis 15-13 in the deciding set.
But since then Halep has barely put a foot wrong and, after being overpowered by sixth seed Pliskova in the first three games, she turned the tables to claim a 6-3 6-2 victory.
It was a match of styles between the big-hitting of Pliskova and Halep’s supreme athleticism and court craft, and from 3-0 down the match began to swing decisively in the top seed’s favour.
Despite standing only 5ft 6in tall compared to Pliskova’s 6ft 1in, Halep hit only one fewer winner and the Czech’s 28 unforced errors compared to just 10 for her opponent sealed her fate.
This is Halep’s best run in Melbourne, and the 26-year-old said: “It’s really nice to be in the semis. I’ve been in the semis of juniors in 2008.
“For sure it wasn’t my best start but I just knew I have to restart to stop missing and moving better, which I did pretty well. Then I started to open the court and play my style. I served well so everything went pretty well for me.”
The first quarter-final was a similar clash of styles and again it was the counter-puncher who came out on top, and even more emphatically, with Kerber blasting to a 6-1 6-2 victory over Madison Keys in just 51 minutes.
The American never settled into the match — much like her US Open final appearance, when she was similarly crushed by Sloane Stephens — with her poor record against Kerber perhaps in her mind.
Keys had only won one of their previous seven matches and had failed to win a set in the last three, but none of them had been quite like this.
The 22-year-old threatened to mount a recovery when she pulled back from 3-0 to 3-2 in the second but, after her serve was broken again in the next game, the match quickly went away from her.
The German, who endured such a miserable 2017 after her brilliant 2016, is now guaranteed to return to the top 10 and extended her winning streak to 10 matches.
Kerber said: “It’s always tough to play against Madison, she’s hitting the ball so hard. I was just trying from the beginning like I played the whole week, just going out there playing my game and trying to enjoy it.
“Always when I play here I feel such great memories. I’m just happy to get through and to be again in the semis here.”