World number two Simona Halep extended her winning streak to 13 matches as she reached the final to delight the fans in attendance at the Internazionali d'Italia. 

Spectators were allowed at a WTA Tour event for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic suspended competitions, the Rome crowd witnessing Halep defeat Garbine Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 in two hours and 14 minutes. 

Muguruza was the last woman to beat Halep, in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, but she was unable to produce a repeat in Italy, where the Romanian will be hoping to add to the recent titles she won in Abu Dhabi and Prague either side of the break. 

Halep, a two-time runner-up at this tournament, was 5-1 up in the third set but was pegged back to 5-4, only for Muguruza to produce back-to-back double faults that handed her opponent the victory.

"The victory is really important against Muguruza, always," Halep said afterwards.

"She's a very, very difficult player and a good player. It's always a good vibe and feeling when I win against her.

"I feel confident now that I was able to win this match."

Next up for Halep is Karolina Pliskova after the defending champion overcame Marketa Vondrousova 6-2 6-4.

Pliskova raced into a one-set lead against her fellow Czech, who was the runner-up at Roland Garros last year, but dropped her serve at the start of the second.

Vondrousova was unable to consolidate and paid the price for failing to stay in the rallies with the former world number one in the closing stages of a match that lasted one hour and 22 minutes. 

US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka lost a three-set thriller to Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali d'Italia to set up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep. 

Muguruza beat her fellow former world number one 3-6 6-3 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes, having been one point away from falling 5-3 down in an entertaining decider at Foro Italico. 

The 2016 French Open winner managed to hold her serve on that occasion, then broke to love in the next game before going on to seal the match at the third attempt. 

"I think it was a tough match. I knew it was going to be a tough match. She's a good player, she's playing good, she's with a lot of confidence," said Muguruza. 

"I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I was ready for it. I stood behind her and was waiting for my opportunities. She was playing great at the beginning. She took the first set. I kept myself together and said, 'Okay, let's start another battle in the second set'."

Next up for Muguruza is two-time Rome finalist Halep, who saw Yulia Putintseva retire from their quarter-final meeting due to a lower back injury. 

After dropping her serve to fall 6-2 2-0 down to the world number two in 47 minutes, Putintseva, who played back-to-back three-set matches in the previous two rounds, pulled out of the match. 

Halep said of Muguruza: "Every time I played well against her, [I was] as much as possible aggressive. If I play my best game and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she's playing so hard. 

"You don't really know what to expect. It's tough every time. So I don't plan for a specific match, because you never know on court."

Two-time Internazionali d'Italia champion Elina Svitolina was comprehensively beaten 6-3 6-0 by Marketa Vondrousova, who was the runner-up at last year's French Open. 

Standing between Vondrousova and her first final appearance since Roland Garros last year is reigning champion Karolina Pliskova. 

Second seed Pliskova overcame Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0 as she continued to impress after initially struggling when the WTA Tour returned in August.

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova cruised into the last eight at the Internazionali d'Italia on Friday, while Garbine Muguruza impressed again.

Tournament favourite Halep eventually looked comfortable in her 7-5 6-4 against Dayana Yastremska, but the Romanian had to fight back from a break down in the opening set as she was put on the back foot.

Halep slid 3-0 down in the opener, but she produced an admirable response when winning 12 of the following 13 points as she levelled up.

Another break from 5-5 allowed Halep to take charge, and from there she rarely looked in trouble, remaining in the ascendancy early in the second as she went 3-0 up, ultimately seeing out the win professionally despite Yastremska giving herself a chance with a break of her own.

"It was not easy against her because you don't really have the rhythm. She hits it very strong and it's tough to return her balls," Halep said, highlighting the need to get her head straight after the early wobble.

"After I lost the first three games, I just had to focus a little bit better and stop giving her the balls that she likes.

"I tried to change it up a little bit, make her move, [hit shots] a little bit high. I think during the match I found some solutions that were good to win.

"Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets."

Awaiting Halep is a meeting with Yulia Putintseva, who fought back from a set down against fellow Russia-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina to edge an absorbing contest 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Second seed and defending champion Pliskova came through fairly comfortably against Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-3, with the Czech next going up against Elise Mertens, who saw off Danka Kovinic in similarly routine fashion with a 6-4 6-4 victory.

Another tantalising quarter-final will be contested between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza. Spaniard Muguruza caught the eye as she beat seventh seed Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1, not dropping serve once against her British opponent.

Azarenka, who incredibly crushed Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin without dropping a game on Thursday, should be fresh for the quarter-final as her last-16 opponent Daria Kasatkina retired due to an ankle injury at 6-6 in the first set of their contest.

Victoria Azarenka produced a memorable performance as she destroyed Sofia Kenin 6-0 6-0 at the Internazionali d'Italia on Thursday.

Azarenka, beaten in the US Open final less than a week ago, has transitioned to the clay courts in impressive fashion after beating Venus Williams and now, more impressively, Kenin.

The Australian Open champion had no answer to Azarenka's ruthlessness and near-perfection out on court in Rome, with the Belarusian claiming victory in just an hour and one minute.

Azarenka faced no break points in the entire match and made only one unforced error as she emphatically took the first set against a player who was her US Open doubles partner.

Kenin improved in the second set, forcing some long games – particularly the second, which was at deuce on five different occasions.

But Azarenka – who faces Russian Daria Kasatkina in the last 16 – simply had too much for the American and cruised to a sensational victory over the third seed,

"I think my consistency was the key to the scoreline," Azarenka told reporters. "I feel like I played really smart tennis today: I was able to use a lot of court; I was able to use a lot of different pace.

"So, I'm very happy with that. But the key was definitely being able to maintain the level that I started with."

She added, according to the WTA Tour website: "I was really more focused on what I can do today on the court, than on what she does well. So, I think that was the difference, I was able to insist on my level and insist on my pace."

Earlier, Garbine Muguruza managed to outlast American sensation Coco Gauff 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3 in an absorbing contest.

Gauff, 16, appeared to be in control of the decider after an early break of serve.

But three double faults in the following game gifted Spaniard Muguruza an instant break in return, giving her the initiative to go on and seal victory.

Johanna Konta saw off Irina-Camelia Begu in fine fashion, the seventh-seeded Briton emerging 6-0 6-4, but Kiki Bertens and Petra Martic were not so impressive.

Bertens, seeded fifth, fell 6-4 6-4 to Polona Hercog, while eighth seed Martic succumbed to Yulia Putintseva in a gruelling three-hour contest, the latter eventually winning 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

Marketa Vondrousova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were among the other victors on the day.

Garbine Muguruza refused to let the rain in Rome disrupt her march to victory over Sloane Stephens.

The Spaniard prevailed 6-3 6-3 in a battle between two grand slam winners to reach the second round of the Internazionali d'Italia.

But the ninth seed had to wait out a downpour she had not seen coming before she could seal the win and a meeting with Coco Gauff.

"It was unexpected, because I checked the weather and it seemed like it was okay," she said of the interruption, which delayed the start of the second set by an hour.

"But I just had to adapt. I knew I had a tough match against Sloane, she's also a great player on clay.

"I'm just happy with my performance, since this is the third match I am able to play in a long time."

There was a shock exit for three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber as she fell to 6-3 6-1 loss against Katerina Siniakova.

Gauff defeated Ons Jabeur 6-4 6-3 to progress, with the 16-year-old joined in the next round by 12th seed by Marketa Vondrousova following her three-set triumph over Misaki Doi.

Elsewhere in the draw, 14th seed Anett Kontaveit overcame Caroline Garcia 6-3 7-6 (7-1), while two-time slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova came from a set down to beat Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams showed signs of improvement en route to the US Open third round as Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin took down Leylah Fernandez.

Former world number one and third seed Williams prevailed in a tricky test against Margarita Gasparyan in straight sets in New York on Thursday.

Countrywoman and second seed Kenin contained Canadian teenager Fernandez behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows.

It was not good news for 10th seed Muguruza, who was sent packing by unranked Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

 

SERENA WINS THROUGH

Williams continued her quest for a record-equalling 24th grand slam after defeating Russian Gasparyan 6-2 6-4 to set up a showdown with 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens.

The 38-year-old Williams hit 27 winners and just 16 unforced errors, an improvement on her numbers in the opening round, under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights.

Williams, who has not won a slam since the 2017 Australian Open, will next meet Stephens after the American 26th seed eased past Olga Govortsova 6-2 6-2.

KENIN SEES OFF FERNANDEZ

Kenin advanced to the third round of her home slam for the fourth year in a row thanks to a 6-4 6-3 victory over Fernandez.

World number four Kenin did not face a break point in a contest lasting one hour, 21 minutes.

After firing 19 winners and three aces, Kenin will play Ons Jabeur – who took down Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (10-8) 6-0.

MUGURUZA STUNNED

Muguruza's US Open campaign came to an end in the second round, sensationally upstaged 7-5 6-3 by Pironkova, who is playing her first tournament since Wimbledon in 2017.

Australian Open runner-up and two-time slam champion Muguruza was serving for the first set when the Spaniard started to unravel.

Pironkova, who gave birth to a son during her time away from the WTA Tour, took control at the end of a tight first set and never looked back.

"I'm not going to hide, I didn't expect my first tournament to be so good and to play so well. It's welcome! That's why I came back, for these matches and these stages," Pironkova said after winning 93 per cent of her first serves.

 

AZARENKA ROLLS ON

Former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka topped fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-1 6-3.

A US Open finalist in 2012 and 2013, Azarenka is in fine form after winning the Western & Southern Open last week.

And Azarenka is now just one victory away from her first second-week appearance at Flushing Meadows in five years.

Meanwhile, seventh seed Madison Keys also progressed to the third round.

Shane Warne made an indelible mark on the Ashes on this day in 1993.

Ash Barty survived a back-and-forth encounter against the in-form Garbine Muguruza to set up a date with familiar foe Petra Kvitova, who ended Ons Jabeur's run at the Qatar Open.

World number one Barty needed three sets to see off Australian Open finalist Muguruza in Doha, while Kvitova won a pair of tie-breaks in her quarter-final with Jabeur. 

Veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova earned a share of tournament history with an upset win over fourth seed Belinda Bencic.

The Russian now faces Aryna Sabalenka, who came from behind to defeat Saisai Zheng in the day's opening match.


BARTY OUT TO CONTINUE KVITOVA RUN

Barty endured a second-set dip in her 6-1 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 beating of Muguruza, who has reached at least the last eight in each of her five tournaments in 2020.

The Australian, playing at her first event since reaching the semis of her home slam in Melbourne, did not face a single break point in the opening set but was met with a much sterner test in the second.

Barty raced into a 5-2 lead in the decider, though, and fought back from 40-15 in the final game to set up a showdown with Kvitova, who she has beaten in their previous four meetings - including a straight-sets win at the Australian Open.

Kvitova, the 2018 champion, edged to a 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4) win over Jabeur, who has enjoyed a stellar year thus far and became the first Arab woman to reach a major quarter-final in Melbourne.


MILESTONE FOR KUZNETSOVA 

Kuznetsova was in devastating form against Bencic, hitting 39 winners and just 15 unforced errors in a 6-4 6-4 triumph.

A runner-up in 2004 and 2007, Kuznetsova now has 19 match wins in Doha, which ties the record held by retired former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

"I have amazing memories," said Kuznetsova, who is in to her first Doha semi since 2007. 

"It was my first time when I beat Justine [Henin] here [in the 2004 semi-finals] and it was like I was a kid, I was 19. 

"I climbed from number 30-something to number 13 or number 14 and it was amazing. It was so long ago it was like another life, but it really happened to me - I didn't watch it in the movies."

Sabalenka will try to end Kuznetsova's run after a 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 defeat of Zheng.

Ons Jabeur continued her fine start to 2020 with the biggest win of her career as she stunned third seed Karolina Pliskova at the Qatar Open.

The Tunisian has surged to a career-high ranking of 44 having made history by reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

What it is rapidly developing into a breakthrough year saw another high point on Wednesday as she emerged victorious from a gruelling three-set battle with third seed Pliskova.

Kiki Bertens was another to suffer a surprise loss as Zheng Saisai came from a set down to see off the seventh seed.

Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka all progressed, while world number one Ashleigh Barty was one of two players to receive a walkover into the quarter-finals, where she will meet Garbine Muguruza.

JABEUR MAKES MORE HISTORY

It has already been an impressive year for Jabeur.

She added another achievement to an increasingly impressive CV by progressing to the last eight in Doha.

Having lost to Simona Halep in a third-set tie-break in Dubai, Jabeur made sure to finish the job against Pliskova, hitting 33 winners to prevail 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a thriller and knock out the 2017 champion.


ZHENG BATTLES BACK

Few would have predicted Bertens succumbing to Zheng considering she dropped just one set en route to the St. Petersburg Open title earlier this month.

There appeared little sign of a shock when Bertens took the first set, but Zheng superbly battled back to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win after two hours and 10 minutes.

Eighth seed Kvitova came through a frenetic contest with Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 5-7 6-1, while Bencic and Sabalenka earned straight-sets victories over Yulia Putintseva and Maria Sakkari.

MUGURUZA SETS UP BARTY CLASH

Though she was unable to overcome Sofia Kenin in the Australian Open final, Muguruza has been a player revitalised in 2020.

A clash with rising star Dayana Yastremska presented a significant hurdle, but she cleared it in relatively routine fashion.

Despite hitting only two winners, Muguruza capitalised on 29 unforced errors from Yastremska as the two-time grand slam champion wrapped up a 6-2 6-4 success.

Barty, whose meeting with Elena Rybakina was cancelled after the Kazakh withdrew with an abductor strain, is next for Muguruza. Svetlana Kuznetsova, meanwhile, progressed as Amanda Anisimova pulled out because of illness.

Ash Barty swept into the last 16 of the Qatar Open on Tuesday with a straight-sets dismantling of Laura Siegemund.

In her first match since the Australian Open, world number one Barty triumphed 6-3 6-2 in her opening match at the WTA Premier event.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin endured another difficult day, though, losing to 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska, while defending champion Elise Mertens also bowed out.

Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova all advanced, while Melbourne runner-up Garbine Muguruza was in imperious form as she dispatched Ajla Tomljanovic for the loss of just three games.

There were also wins for Saisai Zheng over Vera Zvonareva, Ons Jabeur against Jennifer Brady, Maria Sakkari over Tereza Martincova and Svetlana Kuznetsova against Iga Swiatek.

BARTY BLASTS OUT OF THE BLOCKS

Playing for the first time since losing to Kenin in the Australian Open semi-finals, Barty produced a disciplined performance to beat Siegemund in 73 minutes.

Barty hit 19 winners to 16 unforced errors but admitted she lost focus at some key moments.

"Happy overall to be able to switch on when I really needed to. Disappointing to have a few lapses in concentration but also a credit to my opponent, she came up with some really good stuff in runs to be able to break me a few times," she said.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina next after she battled to beat Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-8).

KENIN WOES CONTINUE

Kenin has now lost three times since lifting the first grand slam singles title of the season, the American slumping to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) loss to Yastremska.

"It's really frustrating," she said. "Obviously coming off of Melbourne where I felt I was playing the best tennis of my life coming down to playing, not the worst tennis, but not playing the tennis I want to be playing."

Yastremska will now meet Muguruza, who wasted little time in beating Tomljanovic 6-1 6-2.

 

PLISKOVA CHARGES ON AS SEEDS PROGRESS

Pliskova was beaten in the quarter-finals in Dubai by Rybakina but looks determined to go the distance in Doha, producing an accomplished performance to oust Bernarda Pera 6-3 6-0.

Fourth seed Bencic was given a tougher time by Veronika Kudermetova before claiming a 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-4) win that took more than two and a half hours.

Aryna Sabalenka edged a tight encounter with Anett Kontaveit 7-5 2-6 7-5, while Kvitova ended the challenge of Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6 6-3 6-0.

Defending champion Mertens is out, though, falling to Yulia Putintseva 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Defending WTA Qatar Open champion Elise Mertens strode confidently into the second round with a straight-sets win over Wang Qiang.

The Belgian, seeded 16th in Doha, produced a dominant display to triumph 6-1 6-2 and set up a meeting with either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Yulia Putintseva.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza endured a much tougher outing at the WTA Premier 5 event than Mertens, requiring three sets to see off Daria Kasatkina.

The two-time grand slam champion prevailed 7-5 5-7 6-3 after two hours and 49 minutes, with Ajla Tomljanovic up next for the Spaniard.

Jelena Ostapenko, who won the French Open in 2017, was pushed all the way in a 7-5 2-6 7-5 victory over Jil Teichmann, while top seed Ash Barty learned that she will face Laura Siegemund following the German's defeat of Yaroslava Shvedova.

Elsewhere in the draw, Veronika Kudermetova dumped out Kristina Mladenovic despite losing the second set 6-0, Svetlana Kuznetsova ousted Cagla Buyukakcay, and Karolina Muchova was too strong for Magda Linette. 

Tomljanovic beat fellow Australian Priscilla Hon, and there were also wins for Bernarda Pera, Alison Van Uytvanck, Amanda Anisimova and Ons Jabeur.

Top seed Simona Halep saved a match point in a gripping battle with Ons Jabeur before sealing her place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep was on the brink of a surprise defeat to the in-form world number 45, but hung in there to win a thriller 1-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion and Jabeur were given great backing from passionate Romanian and Tunisian supporters in a pulsating contest that swung one way and the other.

Halep appeared destined to complete the turnaround with ease when she led 3-0 in the final set, but the tenacious Jabeur was relishing the battle and showed great spirit to take the upper hand at 6-5.

The unseeded Jabeur was broken to love when serving for the match, though, and a double-fault gifted 2015 champion Halep a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, yet there was more drama to come.

Jabeur fended off three match points to earn one of her own, but Halep showed her grit to win the next two points before her gutsy opponent drilled a forehand long to end a tense two-hour contest.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after the seventh seed defeated Elise Mertens 6-4 6-3.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza advanced with a hard-fought Veronika Kudermetova, winning 7-5 4-6 6-4 two days after knocking out the returning Kim Clijsters.

Elena Rybakina, a three-time finalist this year, got the better of Katerina Siniakova for the second successive week, a 6-3, 6-3 victory setting up a meeting with Karolina Pliskova.

Second seed Pliskova lost just three games in emphatic defeat of Kristina Mladenovic, while Petra Martic, Jennifer Brady and Anett Kontaveit were also victorious.

Kim Clijsters took solace in feeling like she had periods of dominance against Garbine Muguruza, who ensured the four-time major champion's comeback began with a defeat.

Making her first appearance on the WTA Tour since the 2012 US Open, former world number one Clijsters fell to a 6-2 7-6 (8-6) defeat against Australian Open finalist Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The 36-year-old dropped her first two service games in the second set but managed to get things back on serve and force a tie-break, something she was proud of despite her early exit.

Clijsters said: "I felt obviously the second set was a big difference compared to the first set. My timing in the first set, my footing, just kept looking for it.

"I felt a few times it was there, then it would be off a few points. At times I felt like I was close. I was seeing the ball clear. Just started reading her game better, as well, getting used to her pace a little bit.

"Yeah, second set I felt I was really in the match. I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

"I think that's a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set, with the type of tennis I played, it's something that is the positive about this match. I'll take that with me for the next matches.

"I had a good feeling out there. I do feel a little bit of, I'm not going to say relief, but a feeling that the pace I can handle."

Muguruza accepted she went into the match completely unsure of what to expect, with Clijsters representing something of an unknown quantity, though she is now anticipating the Belgian to cause problems for plenty of players.

"I think she played very well, especially in the second set at the end," Muguruza said. "It was very tight.

"I think this is just special because I didn't know how [Clijsters was] going to play. I know she can play incredible - she did at some point play [at an] incredible level. I haven't seen her play in so long, so it's like, 'Okay, what's going to happen?'

"I'm sure she's going to get better and better, for sure, [and] give us a lot of trouble."

Clijsters' fellow Belgian Elise Mertens was in action earlier in the day and had significantly fewer issues, cruising past Wang Qiang in straight sets.

Mertens needed a little over an hour to secure her progression, ultimately running out a comfortable 6-3 6-0 victor – winning the second set in just 25 minutes.

World number 18 Alison Riske suffered a shock 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 defeat at the hands of Ons Jabeur, who set up a second-round clash with Simona Halep.

The Tunisian, who is ranked 45th in the world, eventually came out on top and owed much to her ability to hit a winner, outscoring Riske 28 to 11 in that metric as she claimed a seventh career win over a top-20 opponent.

Barbora Strycova came through a lengthy encounter with 18-year-old Amanda Animisova, beating the American 6-3 (7-3) 2-6 6-4 over two hours and 33 minutes, taking advantage of her opponent's proneness to errors.

Marketa Vondrousova was the highest-ranked player in action on Tuesday, and she dispatched Anastasija Sevastova with relative ease, winning 6-3 6-2.

Kim Clijsters was denied a dream return to the WTA Tour as she was beaten in straight sets by Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Muguruza, runner-up at the recent Australian Open, triumphed 6-2 7-6 (8-6) in one hour and 37 minutes on Monday.

Playing her first match since losing to Laura Robson in the second round of the US Open in August 2012, the Belgian was rusty at times as she racked up 10 double faults and gave up 15 break points.

However, Clijsters' fight and impressive groundstrokes in the second set would have given her plenty of hope for the months ahead.

Clijsters' opponent changed when Kiki Bertens withdrew from the event after winning in St Petersburg, but in-form Muguruza represented a similarly daunting first task in her comeback contest.

The 36-year-old was broken in a 10-point opening game and dropped serve again later in the first set.

She forced her first break points as Muguruza served for the opener at 5-2 but could not convert three opportunities as the Spaniard held.

A slow start also impacted four-time major champion Clijsters in the second set, as Muguruza claimed an immediate break and then struck once more in her opponent's next service game to move 3-0 up.

Clijsters showed grit and broke Muguruza for the first time in game four and later superbly claimed a second break to level matters, eventually forcing a tie-break.

She won the first two points of the breaker only for her younger rival to go on a streak of four that included a superb cross-court forehand winner.

At 6-5 in front, Muguruza hit a forehand long on her opening match point but she ultimately sealed victory with her next opportunity thanks to an unreturned serve

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