BEIJING • Simona Halep is on the cusp of overhauling Garbine Muguruza as world No. 1 after the Romanian raced into the China Open semi-finals.
The world No. 2 eased past Russia's unseeded Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 in 69 minutes and will face Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko next.
Halep could potentially usurp Spaniard Muguruza at the top if she reaches the final in Beijing, although world No. 3 Elina Svitolina is also in the mix.
In the battle of the Czechs, Petra Kvitova beat Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4 and will face the winner of the late match between Svitolina and France's Caroline Garcia.
Halep and Ostapenko met at the French Open earlier this year, with the Latvian winning the duel.
But the Romanian is in red-hot form and claimed the scalp of former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova earlier this week, beating the Russian at the eighth attempt.
Halep also got some measure of revenge when she thrashed Kasatkina yesterday, having lost to the Russian at the Wuhan Open last week.
"I think I played much better than Wuhan," the 26-year-old told the WTA website. "I changed the tactic and worked pretty well. I did adjust my game and my style, and I was very consistent and solid as well."
Ostapenko believes Halep will be expected to win this time.
But the 20-year-old added after seeing off Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-4: "If I play my best and I stay aggressive tomorrow and I am consistent, I think everything can happen."
At press time, seven players, including Muguruza, Halep, Svitolina and Ostapenko, have qualified for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, with one more spot left for the Oct 22-29 season-ender. Halep will be making her fourth straight appearance in the Republic.
The Spaniard's short four-week stay at the top is under severe threat after she bowed out in the first round in the Chinese capital with a virus.
WTA CHINA OPEN
S-finals: StarHub Ch203, 2.30pm & 5.30pm