Former World No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova cemented her Auckland Classic title credentials with an effortless 6-4, 6-3 victory over Italy's Sara Errani in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Russian, who looked out of touch 12 months ago when her second round loss extended a year-long dip in form, has returned to Auckland in fine shape and appears intent on exorcising those demons.
The World No. 19 dispatched Alison Riske in 75 minutes then destroyed American teenager Christina McHale, who is tipped as a potential top-10 player and had beaten her twice last year, to make the last eight without being stretched.
The 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion had been expected to be pushed hard by the fleet-footed Italian but the Russian overpowered her opponent with blistering groundstrokes off both flanks to set up a semi-final against Zheng Jie.
"It was not the best performance from me this week today but still I didn't have my best day and I went out in two sets so that was good," the third seed said.
Kuznetsova's potential march to the title was also made easier when top seed Sabine Lisicki was forced out of the tournament with an abdominal injury suffered during her quarter-final against fellow German Angelique Kerber.
Lisicki, who has struggled with her timing in a series of mixed performances throughout the week, sought medical attention for the injury after she lost the first set 6-4 and continued to have treatment between games.
The World No. 15 lasted until the eighth game of the second set, when she was trailling 4-3, before deciding she could not carry on.
Kerber will meet fourth seed Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals after the Italian easily accounted for Russia's Elena Vesnina in the first match on Thursday, romping to a 6-2, 6-1 victory in 68 minutes.