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Halep roars back to reach semis, Pliskova ends French presence

Last updated on: June 08, 2017 01:01 IST

Simona Halep trailed by a set and 5-1 against Elina Svitolina but somehow dug herself out of a hole before storming to victory to set up a semi-final against Karolina Pliskova.

Simona Halep

IMAGE: Simona Halep celebrates after winning her match. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Former French Open runner-up Simona Halep staged a remarkable fightback and saved a match point to reach the semi-finals with a 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0 win over Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.

Romanian third seed Halep trailed by a set and 5-1 against the hard-hitting fifth seed but somehow dug herself out of a hole before storming to victory to set up a semi-final against Czech second seed Karolina Pliskova.

Ukrainian Svitolina saved four set points at 5-6 in the second and then had a match point in the tiebreak which Halep saved with a brave forehand that kissed the sideline and followed that with an improvised backhand winner.

Simona Halep

IMAGE: Simona Halep in action during the quarter-final match. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

A rejuvenated Halep clinched the second set with a forehand winner and predictably swept through the decider as Svitolina's spirit sagged, sealing victory with an ace.

"She played unbelievable tennis in the first set until the end of the second set," Halep told reporters. "When I sat down at 2-5 (in the second set) I just said the match is lost.

"Then I started to feel more relaxed maybe because I thought it's finished. I changed the rhythm. I put some high balls. I just tried to make her move more.

"She played well. Then I played better. So all is good."

Halep will face second-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova in the last four, while in the other half of the draw Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko will take on Swiss Timea Bacsinszky.

Pliskova ends French presence

IMAGE: Karolina Pliskova celebrates winning her quarter-final match. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Few people expected Karolina Pliskova to reach the French Open semi-finals and even the Czech, who admits to having limited claycourt skills, did not back herself for such an achievement.

The world number three played safely throughout the match in windy conditions to beat Caroline Garcia 7-6(3), 6-4 and end the French presence in the main draw on Wednesday.

Garcia joins Kristina Mladenovic, beaten by Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in her quarter-final on Tuesday, on the exit route at Roland Garros, where the French bubble has burst in a couple of days.

On a packed Court Philippe Chatrier, 28th seed Garcia fought all the way, but Pliskova, the 2016 US Open finalist, was simply doing everything a little bit better.

"So far still before this tournament I was struggling on clay with almost everything. Didn't have my weapons on my side and the movement was terrible," Pliskova, who next faces former French Open runner-up Simona Halep, told a news conference.

"...I don't think it's better, but somehow I'm just winning."

Her improvement in the claycourt major bears similarities with the career of Russia's Maria Sharapova, a self-described 'cow on ice' on the red dirt who still managed to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup twice.

Pliskova is taking baby steps.

"Today I can finally say I felt a little bit better on the court compared to the last matches," she said. "Yeah, the serve was good, which is also important."

Now the 25-year-old is one win away from becoming world number one next week.

"Coming into this tournament, there were a few people who told me, You have to be in the final to be No. 1. I was like, there is no chance I make the final here," she said with a smile.

But Pliskova is almost there.

She had never made it past the second round here and, after sometimes struggling in previous rounds, she perfectly handled Garcia, who was looking to become the first Frenchwoman in the last four since Marion Bartoli in 2011.

Despite the swirling winds sweeping the court, Pliskova made only 13 unforced errors -- one every two games -- while Garcia hit 31.

The local favourite held serve in the second set until the 10th game, when Pliskova scooped a lob that handed her a match point which she converted confidently with a forehand winner.

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