In-form Iga Swiatek dispatched unseeded Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3 to book a place in the semi-finals at Indian Wells where the world No 1 will play the Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina.
Swiatek, the tournament’s defending champion, broke Cirstea for a third time to grab the first set and sprinted out to a 4-0 second set lead.
Cirstea cut the lead to 4-2 but Swiatek was determined not to let her back in the set, crushing a forehand winner for a 5-2 advantage and sealing the victory two games later when Cirstea’s forehand went long on match point.
The Pole has yet to drop a set at Indian Wells and is brimming with confidence after winning a title in Doha last month.
“From the beginning of the tournament I felt this positive energy,” Swiatek said in an on-court interview. “The fans are really supportive. It’s not easy when you are the defending champion but I feel like I’m handling it pretty well and just playing my game.”
Swiatek will be out for revenge when she faces Rybakina, who handed her one of her three losses this season in the fourth round of January’s Australian Open.
Rybakina will play for a place in the final after surviving a stern test from Czech Karolína Muchová to advance 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4.
Muchová smacked a backhand crosscourt winner to break serve in the first set for a 3-2 lead and, despite having played several gruelling three-set matches at the tournament and having her left thigh wrapped, looked fresh.
The hard-hitting Rybakina struck back when she converted her sixth break point opportunity of the set by pouncing on a weak approach shot from Muchová, who then could not get her volley over the net for 5-5.
In the tiebreaker momentum swung firmly in Rybakina’s favour when she sent a blistering backhand winner down the line for 4-4 and the 76-minute first set ended on a Muchová double fault.
The unseeded Muchová, a former top 20 player now ranked 76th, played nearly flawless tennis in the second set to force the decider.
In the third, the 10th-seeded Rybakina went up an early break on another untimely double fault by Muchová and held at love to push the advantage to 3-1.
Muchová continued to battle, saving two match points on her serve in the ninth game.
But Rybakina did not miss her third opportunity to secure the win, crushing her sixth ace to end the two-hour, 45-minute contest on a sunny day at the WTA 1000 event in the Southern California desert.
“It was a really tough match today,” said Rybakina, who became the first Kazakhstani woman to make it to the tournament’s semis. “I served much better in the third. I didn’t start that well at the beginning of the match. I was a bit slower than usual and here the conditions are not that easy for me.
“But in the important moments I played well.”