SHENZHEN • While Elina Svitolina has yet to break her Grand Slam duck, the WTA Finals is fast becoming the event where she brings her best tennis.
The defending champion became the first player through to the semi-finals after sweeping past an error-strewn Simona Halep to win 7-5, 6-3 in Shenzhen, China yesterday.
It was her eighth successive win at the event and having shown similar commanding form at last year's edition in Singapore, the Ukrainian, 25, appears to be the one to beat.
Svitolina, who will finish top of the Purple Group, had the better of long baseline rallies against her uncharacteristically errant Romanian opponent, who finished with 38 unforced errors.
Afterwards, the world No. 8 revealed she had found the sweet spot in terms of coming up with a balanced game.
"It's about managing attack and defence for me," said Svitolina, who is hoping to end a barren season on a high, having failed to win a title since last year's WTA Finals in Singapore. "I've been working on this. That's working well this week.
"It was an extremely physical match. I played very solid. I'm very happy about that."
Fourth-ranked Halep later admitted her sloppiness could cost her a place in the next round.
"I really want to win because I want to qualify from this group," the Wimbledon champion said. "Hopefully, I can recover because I'm a little bit tired and play better than today."
In the later match, teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire hurt against Karolina Pliskova, having lost the first set 6-3 in 51 minutes.
The 19-year-old Canadian injured her left knee in the third game after attempting to return a wide serve and received heavy strapping during the subsequent medical timeout.
While the US Open champion fought on gamely, she was hobbling noticeably and had to withdraw, something her Czech opponent said she "felt sorry for".
Halep will play Pliskova tomorrow to decide the Purple Group's second spot.