Star pair fight back

Sports | AGENCIES 10 Jul 2019

Simona Halep reached her second Wimbledon semi-final yesterday with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory over China's Zhang Shuai.

Serena Williams also advanced after overcoming a spirited challenge from fellow American Alison Riske 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Former world No 1 Halep, seeded seventh, will face either Ukrainian eighth seed Elina Svitolina or Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic for a place in the final.

Zhang, bidding to become just the second Chinese woman to reach the semi-finals, led 4-1 in the first set and held four break points for a 5-1 lead.

Just as she did in quelling the lively challenge of 15-year-old Coco Gauff a day earlier, Halep bounced back from her initial struggles.

"I fought hard in the first set, even if I was down 4-1," said 27-year-old Halep, a former French Open champion.

"I knew I had to be strong, play aggressive as much as possible and I did it great.

"I have energy, I feel fresh, I feel healthy, I feel confident when I step on the court."

Romania's Halep last made the last-four in 2014 when she was beaten by Eugenie Bouchard.

Zhang started superbly, serving and returning with depth, power and confidence to break in the second game and race to a 4-1 lead. That looked set to be 5-1 but Halep battled to save four break points in the game and turn the match.

The Romanian began to find her own rhythm, delivering the calculated low-risk groundstrokes, then broke back via a double fault.

Zhang's double-handed backhand, so deadly in the opening games, began to pepper the tramlines. She clung on enough to get to a tiebreak but was well beaten in it and an early break in the second set put Halep 3-1 up. Zhang's head then dropped and the errors flowed.

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