In an all-Belarusian battle, No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka eased past 8th-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Omnium Banque Nationale semifinals.
The World No.3 Sabalenka is currently the match-win leader for the season on the WTA, with her 1-hour and 19-minute victory over Azarenka marking her 38th victory of the year.
"I'm really happy with this, it was a tough match," Sabalenka said to the media after her win. "[Azarenka] played really well. The second set was a little tricky. I'm really happy that I came back in the end of the set and won it actually."
Sabalenka had to come back from a break down in the second set, but she is now 3-1 against her two-time Grand Slam-winning compatriot. In their most recent prior meeting, Sabalenka beat Azarenka for one of her 10 career WTA singles titles, in the Ostrava final last season.
Top-seeded Sabalenka was the aggressor in the match, as she had 33 winners to just eight from Azarenka. Sabalenka also won 74 percent of points behind her first serve, while Azarenka's success rate behind her first delivery was 58 percent.
"I knew that even if I am down with the score, I still can come back in the match," Sabalenka said. "These kind of thoughts help me to be a little bit more free on the court."
Thus, Azarenka was denied a trip to the Omnium Banque Nationale semifinals for the first time in a decade. Azarenka reached the semifinals of this event three times in a four-year span between 2008 and 2011.
Sabalenka began her romp through the first set by breaking for 2-0 on her fifth break point of a marathon game. After the top seed raced to 5-1, Azarenka made a late charge to grab one break back, but Sabalenka returned with intense pressure to notch the following game and close out the opener.
A dropshot miscue by Sabalenka handed Azarenka a break in the first game of the second set, which Azarenka dutifully maintained through 4-3. But in that game, power and passes from Sabalenka helped her break back to get level at 4-4, and the No.1 seed ultimately reeled off the final four games of the match to clinch victory.
Sabalenka will face No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals, after the Czech defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in their quarterfinal clash, 6-4, 6-0. It will be a rematch of last month's Wimbledon semifinal, which Pliskova won in three sets.
Against Sorribes Tormo, Pliskova was down an early break in the opening set, but she turned the match around to cruise to victory in an hour and 20 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead in her head-to-head with the World No.48 from Spain.
"I really improved my game, especially [at the] end of the first set," Pliskova told the press, after her win. "Of course, in the second set I think I did a good job, good points there, much better serving than in the first set."
As expected, Pliskova was powerful on serve but she was truly overwhelming on return, as she collected 85 percent of points returning the Sorribes Tormo second serve. That helped Pliskova convert six of her seven break points on the way to the win.
Bolstered by impeccable defense and a challenging slice, Sorribes Tormo grasped the early lead by breaking Pliskova for 3-1. However, that started a run of four straight breaks which ended with Pliskova back on serve at 4-3, and the Czech at last took charge with a break at love for 5-4. Pliskova served out the first set from there.
Pliskova won the first 13 points of the second set, leading 3-0 before Sorribes Tormo pulled her into a topsy-turvy game. But Pliskova won that five-deuce game to lead 4-0, and the Czech eased home from there, finishing the match by winning 10 games in a row.
Looking forward to another battle with Sabalenka, Pliskova said that "we played in Wimbledon not many weeks ago, so I know what to expect. I know what I have to do to beat her, or at least to be close. So let's see if I can do that."