FILE PHOTO: Mar 15, 2022; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Simona Halep (ROU) hits a shot in her third round match against Sorana Cirstea (ROU) at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

March 17, 2022

(Reuters) -Simona Halep took less than an hour to breeze past Petra Martic 6-1 6-1 on Wednesday and reach the semi-finals of the WTA Indian Wells tournament for the fourth time, while Iga Swiatek also advanced in style dismantling Madison Keys.

Halep went up a break at 2-1 in the opening set after her opponent double-faulted, and the Romanian reeled off the next six games behind confident groundstrokes and precise serving.

The tournament’s 2015 champion was never really pushed, winning 55 points to Martic’s 21.

The unseeded Martic had notched impressive wins over 28th-seeded Ludmilla Samsonova and U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu en route to the quarter-final, but appeared to run out of gas under sunny skies in the California desert.

“I feel like I played my best tennis so far this year,” said Halep, who beat Martic in the 2018 quarter-final in three sets.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match against her. The one in 2018 was a longer match and was much more difficult. But today I felt great. I’ve been on a mission. I wanted to be focused on what I had to do.

“When I entered the court, I said my return has to be strong because she has a huge serve with a kick. At my height, it’s not easy to return. But I did it pretty well. I practiced it a little bit more yesterday and this morning.”

Next up for Halep is Swiatek, who got past big-serving American Keys 6-1 6-0 in 56 minutes. The pair have met three times previously with Halep winning twice.

“Tough match, because she’s playing the best tennis of her life,” Halep said. “She’s in the best moment. I expect a really tough one. But I’m here in the semi-final, so I’ll take that. I’ll just try my best.”

Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, had been pushed to three sets in her last three matches but looked in a hurry to secure a WTA Tour-leading 18th victory of the season.

“I was getting tired a little bit, so I wanted to make it quick,” said the 20-year-old Pole.

“Madison played a great tournament. Her whole season is pretty great. I didn’t really know if I was going to be able to push back her speed, because she can play pretty fast. I wanted to stay low on my legs and control it a little more.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Kim Coghill)

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