TOKYO • Newly crowned world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza trounced France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-4 yesterday to reach the semi-finals of tennis' Pan Pacific Open.
Earlier, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber won a war of attrition with second seed Karolina Pliskova to book her place in the last four.
Muguruza, playing her first event since reaching the top of the world rankings, never looked threatened in a one-sided quarter-final.
The Wimbledon champion stormed to a 5-1 lead before ripping a half-court forehand into the corner to secure the first set.
The Spaniard pounced on a short second serve with a backhand to break early in the second set. The ninth-seeded Garcia gave herself a lifeline to level the set at 3-3, but was quickly put in her place when Muguruza beat her with a ferocious backhand pass.
A crunching serve down the middle put Garcia out of her misery after 81 minutes as Muguruza advanced to face holder Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane won her quarter-final after Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova was forced to retire with a right-thigh injury while trailing 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 1-3.
"I guess I'm always the favourite now," Muguruza said. "I'm dealing with a new situation (of being No. 1) and I don't think it's right to put pressure on myself. But to achieve a dream I've had since I was a child gives me a lot of confidence."
Kerber, seeded seventh, came through 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 as she repelled some brutal hitting from Pliskova in a contest of real quality.
Pliskova, who herself briefly held the top ranking over the summer, produced moments of brilliance at the net but crumbled under relentless pressure from the German.
One of her eight double-faults gave Kerber the first set tie-break before she unravelled again at the business end of the second set. Kerber turned the screw in the 12th game, forcing Pliskova to save four match points before delivering the coup de grace with a dipping backhand that landed on the Czech's shoelaces, giving her no chance.
Kerber, who has slipped to 14th in the world since winning last year's Australian and US Open titles, faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova next. The Russian beat Czech Barbora Strycova 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
"Right now there's no pressure on me at all," said Kerber, the 2013 runner-up here. "I know I can still beat the best players in the world."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
PAN PACIFIC OPEN
S-finals: StarHub Ch203, 11am