Australian Open semifinal: Muguruza beats Halep, sets up Kenin clash

Garbine Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, reached her first Melbourne final with a tough 7-6 (10/8), 7-5 victory at a hot Rod Laver Arena.

Garbine Muguruza will play Sofia Kenin in Saturday’s women’s singles final at Melbourne Park.   -  REUTERS

Unseeded Garbine Muguruza defeated fourth seed Simona Halep on Thursday to set up an Australian Open final with surprise-package Sofia Kenin.

The Spaniard, a two-time Grand Slam champion, reached her first Melbourne final with a tough 7-6 (10/8), 7-5 victory at a hot Rod Laver Arena.

The 26-year-old, who suffered a calamitous drop in form last season, is the first unseeded player to reach the women's final since Belgium's Justine Henin in 2010.

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“You don’t think like that [being in the final at the outset of the tournament], that’s two weeks ago. You go day by day, you take each match as it comes. I have one final match on Saturday," Muguruza said after the match.

“I wasn’t thinking I was down, I was thinking keep going. At some point you’ll have your opportunity.

“Luckily I have 48 hours to recover and get ready for the last match. We train all our career to get ready for this match," she added.

Good recovery

Halep and Muguruza, who have both won the French Open and Wimbledon, were too close to split in a nervy first set.

In sweltering heat, with play on the outside courts suspended earlier as temperatures hit 38 Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit), they grappled all the way to the tie-breaker.

Muguruza, unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2014, squandered two set points in the breaker while saving two more for Halep, and then clinched it with a stop volley that Halep couldn't get back over the net.

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Surging forward

It was the first set that Halep -- also a former number one -- had dropped all week and she reacted by mangling her racquet and slumped in her chair, shaking her head.

The 28-year-old recovered her poise and broke Muguruza for a 3-2 lead in the second set, before Muguruza broke back and then held to make it 6-5.

Halep, so serene in Melbourne up until now, cracked as she served to stay in the tournament, saving the first match point but then netting a backhand as Muguruza surged forward on the second.

Muguruza bt Halep [4] 7-6 (10-8) 7-5

Muguruza – 39/44
Halep – 20/23

Muguruza – 10/2
Halep – 2/1

Muguruza – 4/14
Halep – 3/13

Muguruza – 59
Halep – 72

Muguruza – 71/42
Halep – 62/44

Muguruza – 90
Halep – 87

-Stats courtesy Opta