| By Eric C. Peck
Top-seeded Simona Halep advanced to the semifinals in Paris on Wednesday, coming back to defeat the number 12 seed, Angelique Kerber, 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes
Photo credit: USTA/Garrett Ellwood

Top-seeded Simona Halep advanced to the semifinals in Paris on Wednesday, coming back to defeat the number 12 seed, Angelique Kerber, 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes.

Halep jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in just 13 minutes, but Kerber stormed back and took the first set 6-7(2).

“After I lost the first set, I just had it in my mind that if I came back from 0-4, I felt like my rhythm was there,” said Halep after dropping the first set to Kerber. “When I broke her first game, I felt more confident and I felt I had the game in my hands … so I just kept calm and kept trying.”

In nine previous career meetings, Kerber held a slight 5-4 advantage in victories, but Wednesday, it was Halep who punched her ticket to her third Roland Garros semifinal appearance.

“She was more aggressive than me, and I think that was, at the end, the key to that match today,” said Kerber post-match. “When I look back on the clay court season, it was not so bad. I didn't know what to expect when I started on clay. I think I did everything I could in my practice sessions and in my matches that I had on clay … I gave my best.”

Up next in the semis for Halep is the number three seed, 2016 French Open champ Garbine Muguruza who needed just 70 minutes to move past two time French Open champ Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 6-1. Muguruza came into the match having never defeated Sharapova in three career meetings, but the Spaniard lived up to her nickname of “Muguruthless” on Wednesday to move into the semis at Roland Garros for the second consecutive year.

“The last time we played was a very long time ago, and a lot of things have happened in between,” said Muguruza of her last encounter with Sharapova, a Round of 32 loss in 2014 at the Canadian Masters. “I felt like I was a more developed player and very motivated out there too … it's a Grand Slam quarterfinals!”

Sharapova said, “I think she did a lot of things better than I did. I think she was the aggressive one. She had a lot more depth on the ball. I think my shots were a lot more forced. She served a lot better than I did today.”

When Muguruza battles Halep in the semis, more than a berth in the finals is at stake as the winner will claim the number one overall spot atop the WTA Women’s Singles Rankings. Muguruza holds a 3-1 career advantage over Halep in four career meetings, the most recent, a dominating 6-0, 6-1 win by the Spaniard last year at the Cincinnati Masters.

“She's playing fast with everyone, so doesn't matter who she is playing against,” said Halep of her semifinal opponent. “I have just to stay strong and try, make her uncomfortable on the court, and to try to play my game. She's a great player. She was in this position. She has won this tournament, so tomorrow is going to be a big challenge for me.”

The winner will face an American in the finals as the 10th seeded Sloane Stephens faces 13th seeded Madison Keys. The two face each other for the third time, the last meeting in the 2017 U.S. Open finals when Stephens, 2-0 lifetime against Keys, captured her first Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-0 win.

Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck is Editor-in-Chief of Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at eric@litennismag.com