Top seed Simona Halep fought back to triumph in a bruising French Open quarter-final battle against Germany’s Angelique Kerber to stand two wins away from her first Grand Slam title.
The Romanian, who lost in last year’s final at Roland Garros, defeated Kerber 6-7(2) 6-3 6-2 to book a place against Garbine Muguruza in the semis.
World number one Halep made a slow start, misfiring on her first serve and spraying her groundshots wide early on in a duel that lasted more than two hours, before steadily breaking down her opponent.
“It’s always a tough match when I play against her. After the first set I just stayed strong and didn’t give up,” Halep told the court Suzanne Lenglen crowd in a post-match interview.
“I missed a lot in the beginning. I tried to do too much. I changed the tactics a bit and it worked.”
Halep had arrived in Paris on a hot streak, reaching at least the quarter-finals in her last nine clay-court tournaments and losing only one set on her path to facing Kerber in Paris.
But it was the German who started the stronger, out-hitting her rival, and with lethal accuracy, to win the first four games as Halep struggled to find her serving rhythm and peppered the tramlines with unforced errors.
Slowly the normally aggressive baseliner clawed her way back into the contest, winning three straight games as both players struggled to hold on to their serves in a monster opening set.
Kerber eventually prevailed in a tiebreak, but Halep came out all guns blazing in the second, firing baseline bullets at her opponent, who tried to cling on against the onslaught.
But by the third set Halep had broken the German’s defences — and her resolve — as she banged in 76 percent of her first serves, with only half the unforced errors of her opponent.
Halep’s win knocks Caroline Wozniacki out of the race to number one in next week’s rankings, and sets up a winner-takes-all contest between herself and Spain’s Muguruza in Thursday’s semi-final.
A Grand Slam win in Paris would bring redemption for Halep, who lost in the 2017 French Open final against Jelena Ostapenko after leading by a set and three games.