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By Chris Oddo | Tuesday January 23, 2018



Ten up, ten down.

Simona Halep won 12 of the final 14 games to surge past No.6-seeded Karolina Pliskova and reach her first Australian Open quarterfinal on Wednesday in Melbourne. The top-seeded Romanian improved her 2018 record to 10-0 but she’s still two wins away from the Grand Slam title that has eluded her all these years.

Halep needed just 71 minutes to defeat Pliskova for the sixth time in seven career battles. She stroked 20 winners against 10 unforced errors and converted 5 of 10 break points to set up a highly anticipated clash with Angelique Kerber in the semifinals.

Something will have to give when the two tour veterans meet for a spot in Saturday’s final, as both Halep and Kerber have started the season with ten consecutive wins.

The pair have split eight meetings at all levels but Kerber has held sway over the rivalry of late, winning four of the last five including their lone Grand Slam battle at Wimbledon in 2016.

After rolling through two hard-serving power brokers Naomi Osaka and Pliskova in her last two rounds, Halep will have to recommit to her fitness in order to overcome the counterpunching of Kerber. Despite injuring her left ankle in the opening round, Halep showed that she’s more than willing to test the waters of a prolonged baseline battle when she saved three match points to oust American Lauren Davis in the third round.

She may be still struggling with the ankle injury but she certainly hasn’t shown it in her last two matches.

She’ll need every ounce of her fitness to contain Kerber, a player that has looked every bit as menacing as she did in 2016 when she won her first two Grand Slam titles and finished the season as the WTA’s year-end No.1.

She’ll also need the courage that has marked her fortnight in Melbourne already, and judging from the way that Halep has risen to every challenge that she’s faced to reach the semis, the Romanian should be fine in that regard as well.

 

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