Former Wimbledon champion Halep into Birmingham semi-finals

BIRMINGHAM (AFP): Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep booked her place in the semi-finals of the WTA Birmingham grass-court event with a straight sets win over Britain s Katie Boulter on Friday.

Boulter had been in career-best form at the tournament, defeating Alison Riske in the first round of the Wimbledon warm-up before knocking out former top-10 player Caroline Garcia.

But second seed Halep ultimately proved too strong in a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

The 30-year-old Romanian, however, did not have things all her own way in a tightly-contested first set.

Boulter, who only returned from nearly three months out with a leg injury at Nottingham last week, kept pace with Halep for the opening eight games.

The 25-year-old, to her credit, saved three break points at 4-4 only to double fault on the fourth.

That proved to be the cue for Halep to pull away in what is her first grass-court event since a superb straight sets win over Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final.

“She s clearly one of the best tennis players out there,” said Boulter of Halep.

“So, for me to be able to stand out there and feel like I can compete and win the match — I really did feel if I brought a bit more game today, then it would have been closer and it would have been a tough match for both of us.”

Halep will now play Brazil s Hadda Maia — winner of last week s Nottingham Open — in the semi-finals.

The world number 32 extended her winning streak on grass to eight matches with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Italian third seed Camila Giorgi.

Sorana Cirstea made it a day of double celebration for Romania by also reaching the semi-finals after coming from a set down to defeat Donna Vekic 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Cirstea will face Zhang Shuai in the last four following the Chinese eighth seed s 7-5, 6-4 win over Ukraine s Dayana Yastremska.