WUHAN (AFP) - World No. 5 Simona Halep downed Madison Keys in the quarter finals of the Wuhan Open on Thursday, to book her place in the elite season-end WTA Finals for the third consecutive year.
Big serving Keys took an early lead in the first set, breaking the Romanian's serve twice, but was unable to maintain the momentum as Halep levelled and then took the set 6-4.
Halep - who turned 25 this week - dropped just two games to take the second set and confirm her place in the eight-player season finale in Singapore.
Only world No. 1 Angelique Kerber and No. 2 Serena Williams have so far qualified for the highly lucrative tournament, and the field remains wide open for the remaining five spots.
"It's amazing to be qualified again for Singapore three years in a row. It's a good thing. It gives me confidence," Halep told reporters after the match.
In a similar style to Kerber, Halep plays off the strength of big hitters like Williams and Keys, who is often cast as the American veteran's successor.
"She can hit very strong. She can miss some easy balls," the Romanian said of her quarter final opponent.
"I don't (have) big shots, but I have speed on the court... I like to take the ball fast. So when I do that, I think I can play at the highest level," she added.
With Williams having taken only one Grand Slam title this year and slipped from her long-held top spot in the rankings, Halep said earlier this week that she feels she now has a shot at the top.
"Every Grand Slam was another winner, Kerber two times this year. I feel now (it) is more open. I feel that I have (a) bigger chance," said the Romanian, who ended last season as world No. 2 but is yet to win a Slam.
Halep will meet two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals after the Czech ended a strong run by Briton Johanna Konta in straight sets.
Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova squashed Agnieszka Radwanska's hopes of qualifying for Singapore this week when she came from a set down to set up a semi-final meet with either Dominika Cibulkova or Barbora Strycova.