Simona Halep opened the 2022 BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals with gusto, as the No.24 seed from Romania cruised past Croatia's Petra Martic 6-1, 6-1 to become this year's first semifinalist in Indian Wells.
Former World No.1 Halep, who won the BNP Paribas Open title in 2015, will play No.3 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland in an intriguing semifinal. Swiatek had an equally brisk win over No.25 seed Madison Keys in the night quarterfinal.
Halep and Swiatek have met three times previously, all at Grand Slam events. Halep dispatched Swiatek at 2019 Roland Garros, Swiatek avenged that loss the very next year at Roland Garros, and Halep claimed a three-set victory at last year's Australian Open.
Simona says: "I think probably [that was my] best match of this year," Halep said, in her post-match press conference. "I felt super well. I felt confident. I've been aggressive. Everything I had to do I did, and it was pretty good.
"Gives me confidence, gives me the boost that I still can play this level. It's been a tough year, as you know. Now coming into this tournament and playing well means a lot. I will take all the positives and I will just build my confidence more and more.
"Tough, tough match [against Swiatek next] because she's playing the best tennis of her life. She's in the best moment. I expect a really tough one. But I'm here in the semifinal, so I will take that. I will just try my best next one."
Stellar stats: Halep and Martic played in the same round in the desert in 2018, when Martic reached the first of her two Indian Wells quarterfinals.
In their match four years ago, Halep had to fight back from 3-1 down in the third set. However, Halep had a much easier go of it this time, prevailing in just 53 minutes and improving her head-to-head against Martic to 3-1.
With the victory over former Top 15 player Martic, Halep improved her win-loss record for the 2022 season to an excellent 15-3. 13 of those 15 wins have come in straight sets.
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Martic, currently ranked No.79, had beaten three seeds en route to the quarterfinals: No.19 Tamara Zidansek, No.11 and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu, and No.28 Liudmila Samsonova. This fortnight was the first time a resurgent Martic had won back-to-back matches since last May.
But Martic's run came to a close against Halep's dominant performance. Halep hit 18 winners to Martic's six, and won 80 percent of Martic's second-service deliveries. Halep finished the match a perfect 5-for-5 on break points converted, easing into the fourth Indian Wells semifinal of her career.
Tale of the match: Halep completely controlled the first set, at one juncture winning 14 points in a row en route to 5-1. A break at love in the following game gave Halep the one-set lead, after an opening frame where she got 93 percent of her first serves into play and won 12 of those 13 points.
The second set began with another unblemished run of points as Halep notched the first 10 in a row. But Martic finally grabbed her first two break points of the day at 2-0 before Halep rebounded with well-timed forehand winners to hold on for 3-0.
Serving for the match at 5-1, Halep got to double match point before Martic made a late charge, maneuvering to her third break point of the day. But Halep would not be denied, coming out on top in a lengthy rally to save the break point, then closing the match two points later with a strong, unreturned serve.