MONTREAL (AFP) - World No. 1 Simona Halep punched her ticket to the semi-finals of the WTA Canada tournament for the fourth straight year, cruising past France's Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-1 on Friday (Aug 10).
The 26-year-old battled through a difficult first set, then easily won the second in a rematch of last year's quarter-final contest with Garcia which was also won by the Romanian.
"The first set was really tough," she said. "I just didn't give up at all in the first set. After I took it, I felt more confident.
"I felt that I'm moving better, I'm playing better, stronger. (Garcia) went a little bit down with energy after she lost that set."
The top-seeded Halep hammered 19 winners and won 77 per cent of points on her first serve in the 88-minute contest.
The Frenchwoman started quickly but could not keep her unforced errors in check, finishing with a total of 31. She earned her only career win over Halep in five previous meetings in the 2017 WTA Beijing final.
The Romanian moves on to the final four where she will face Australian Ashleigh Barty, who ousted giant killer Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in straight sets 6-3, 6-1.
Three matches in two days
Halep, the 2016 champion, was playing her third match in two days after earning two wins on Thursday over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 38-year-old Venus Williams.
After the match, she slammed the WTA about her scheduling, saying she regularly has less time to recover from matches than her opponents.
"I am very upset about it," said Halep, who is first up on the Montreal courts on Saturday. "I talked to my team about this and all of them are upset... I never complained about the schedule, but today was enough."
On Friday, she broke Garcia in the fifth game of the second set for a 4-1 lead and had no trouble icing the win from there.
World No. 16 Barty reached the semi-finals by reeling off nine of the last 10 games against Bertens.
"I never played against (Barty), so I don't really know what to expect," said Halep. "But I know she's very talented. I just have to talk to my coach tomorrow before the match, trying to stay stronger on my legs, and trying to be with the energy at the highest level."
Barty was the more composed player in difficult, windy conditions as Bertens, who had seen off ninth seed Karolina Pliskova and eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova in her previous two matches, was undone by 31 unforced errors in the 55-minute quarter-final.
The Australian has reached the semi-finals on her Montreal debut, having made the last 16 when the event was held in Toronto last year.
"It was really tricky conditions and we were both struggling a little," she said.
"I'm very happy to come through and get a little bit better during the match."
US Open champion Sloane Stephens was just as ruthless as Barty in her quarter-final, as the third-seeded American made the semi-finals for the second straight year, seeing off Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 6-2.
"I've been playing well and it's a good start here to the US Open Series. I'm happy to be back in North America and playing on hard courts, and I'm hoping for some more good results," she said.
Stephens will face defending champion Elina Svitolina, who came back from an 0-4 deficit in the first set to eliminate Belgian Elise Mertens 7-5, 6-3.