A new Mutua Madrid Open champion is guaranteed after the last Top 10 player in the draw, No.8 seed Ons Jabeur, defeated the only past winner Simona Halep 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals in 67 minutes.
The victory puts Jabeur into her second WTA 1000 semifinal following Indian Wells 2021, and her second semifinal in her past three tournaments after reaching the Charleston final a month ago. She will face qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova, who claimed a 6-4, 6-3 win over Amanda Anisimova.
The Tunisian's record on hard courts across the first three months of the year, which were hampered by a back injury that forced her out of the Australian Open, was 8-5; since the Hologic WTA Tour moved to clay, she has gone 10-2 and counting.
The result is also Jabeur's first completed win over Halep, who won Madrid in 2016 and 2017. Previously, she had defeated the Romanian via retirement in the first round of Beijing 2018, but Halep had won two subsequent encounters at Dubai 2020 and Dubai 2022.
Not only will a new Madrid winner be crowned in Saturday's final, but a brand new WTA 1000 champion. None of the remaining players in the field have captured a title above 250 level; and 2021 Cincinnati runner-up Jil Teichmann is the only one to have contested a WTA 1000 final previously.
Jabeur will face either Ekaterina Alexandrova or Amanda Anisimova in the last four.
Match management: Jabeur dazzled throughout in every facet of the game. She conjured 25 winners, a good proportion of which were casually flicked dropshots that drew gasps from the crowd. In the extended rallies that are normally Halep's forte, it was Jabeur who was a step ahead of the former World No.1 in terms of courtcraft and placement. And a 78% winning percentage behind her first serve provided a rock-solid foundation.
Jabeur was also able to shrug off all potential turning points. Despite a strong start, she played her most error-strewn game of the match to drop serve at 1-1 in the first set. But she quickly righted the ship with a four-game run that included a streak of 12 points.
Leading 3-2, 40-0 in the second set and in complete control, Jabeur tried to be too cute with an easy putaway, allowing Halep to loft a winning lob and get back to deuce. But successful Jabeur dropshots staved off break-back point and sealed the crucial hold for 4-2.
Halep, meanwhile, was undone by 20 unforced errors to only eight winners. The World No.21 never found her range consistently, with her forehand going off the boil for a long stretch in the first set and her backhand letting her down in the home stretch, including the netted short ball on match point.
In Jabeur's words: "To be honest with you, I was really stressed the whole match, knowing Simona, knowing that she can come back at every time.
"But I knew I had to win this game [at 3-2] no matter what. I know I made like a lot of dropshots in this game. But it was a crazy point, especially at 40-30 where I could finish the point, but I didn't know if I took the risk and miss it or what should I do?
"I felt like she played really well, and I'm impressed with the fact I didn't focus on that point, because if I really was frustrated, I could have lost the game. But happy that I kept it cool and won that game, because it was, I think, the game of the set."
Qualifier Alexandrova out-serves Anisimova
Alexandrova had never gone beyond the last 16 at WTA 1000 level or above prior to this week, but powered into her biggest career semifinal in 1 hour and 30 minutes. The 27-year-old becomes the third qualifier to reach the last four in Madrid, following Lucie Hradecka in 2012 and Louisa Chirico in 2016.
Renowned as a fast-court expert whose best results had previously come indoors, Alexandrova has turned her 2022 around on clay. On hard courts, she posted a 4-6 record through March. But starting with a Charleston semifinal run, she has gone 11-2 since (including two qualifying matches in Madrid).
Initially, Anisimova - who was bidding for her biggest semifinal since Roland Garros 2019 - was getting the upper hand in most of the high-octane baseline duels. The American twice went up a break in the first set.
But Alexandrova broke back immediately both times, captured the Anisimova serve again at 4-4 and slammed down four straight unreturned serves to seal the set.
In the second set, No.45-ranked Alexandrova was better at rising to the occasion in the tougher moments. Down 2-1, she came through nine deuces over the next three games to take a 4-2 lead. Anisimova, who converted only three of her 11 break point chances, was also beset by eight double faults and 21 unforced errors. The 20-year-old also required a medical timeout trailing 3-2 in the second set.
Alexandrova, by contrast, struck 19 winners and kept her unforced error tally to seven, and sealed her second match point as Anisimova sent a backhand long.
With a biggest career final on the line for both semifinalists, Jabeur may be favoured by ranking - but Alexandrova can be bolstered by a dominant head-to-head. They first played each other in 2016 Wimbledon qualifying, and Alexandrova leads Jabeur 6-1 overall, including 3-0 on clay. Jabeur's sole win came in the 2017 Zhuhai ITF W60 second round.