Top seed Maria Sharapova set up a clash with fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as they both advanced to the semi-finals of the WTA Paris Open on Friday.
Sharapova eased past Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-2 for her fourth victory in as many matches over the Belgian, who had ousted titleholder Mona Barthel of Germany in the first round.
She next meets world No. 26 Pavlyuchenkova, who dropped a set in her quarter-final before getting past world No. 9 Angelique Kerber of Germany, a winner at the WTA Paris Open in 2012.
World No. 5 Sharapova opened with a break and raced to a 4-0 advantage in 15 minutes. The four-time Grand Slam winner staved off a break point to lead 5-1 before taking the first set 6-2.
An early break again in the second set put Sharapova on her way, but the Belgian, who has never taken a set from the Russian, fought back to 2-2 after a Sharapova double fault.
However, the 26-year-old Russian immediately broke back, wrapping up again 6-2 after 69 minutes on court at the Coubertin Stadium.
“It’s just my third tournament of the season and I was happy to be able to stay focused on each point,” the former world No. 1 said.
Sharapova has won her only previous meeting with Pavlyuchenkova, 22, also on a hard court in Cincinnati in 2010.
Earlier, Pavlyuchenkova had a battle with Kerber, who had won the last two of their previous four meetings.
A major base-line battle of wills resulted in the Russian coming through 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) after 2 hours, 30 minutes.
The final two quarter-finals see Germany’s Andrea Petkovic take on France’s Alize Cornet and Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina face third seed Italy’s Sarra Errani.
AP, PATTAYA, Thailand
Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic reached her first WTA semi-final in almost a year after she came back from two match points down to beat third seed Sorana Cirstea 1-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-0 in the Pattaya Open on Friday.
Pliskova came up with good serves when she needed them at 4-5, 15-40 in the second set to hold that game, and went on to dominate the tiebreak and third set thanks also to a barrage of unforced errors from Cirstea.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Pliskova said. “She was playing amazing in the first set and I didn’t have any chance to play my game. She was playing fast and she was killing all my second serves. In the second set I was just trying to hold my serves and hoped that in the tiebreak anything could happen.”
Pliskova’s last appearance in a semi-final was in Kuala Lumpur in February last year, when she also went on to claim her first and only singles title.
She faces Julia Georges of Germany, who beat fifth seed Elena Vesina of Russia 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
“I’m happy that I’ve won hard matches here,” Pliskova said. “I played my last semi-final in Kuala Lumpur, which is almost a year. So I’m happy that I’m not going to lose [ranking] points.”
In Friday’s other quarter-final, Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic upset eighth seed Peng Shuai of China 6-2, 7-5.
Hlavackova, a doubles specialist who has two Grand Slam doubles titles, has to go past fourth seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia or Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm to reach her second singles final.