Halep through while Sharapova surprises all

Stephens crashes out, Pliskova through at Miami Open

Simona Halep earned another routine win while Maria Sharapova surprised all to also reach the final four of the Italian Open on Friday.

The Romanian was ruthless against seventh seed Caroline Garcia, breaking her on seven occasions to defeat her 6-2, 6-3 under the lights in Rome to reach her fourth semi-final of the year.

The match started with a flurry of breaks as the pressure of the occasion seemed to be getting to both players before Halep would be the first to hold and go 4-2 up.

In the second set, a settled Halep would race to a 5-2 lead with some expansive play before closing out the match.

The victory sets up a tantalising semi-final with former world number one Maria Sharapova. The Russian superstar leads their head-to-head stat 7-1, with Halep winning their last encounter in Beijing in 2017.

Earlier in the day, Sharapova stunned fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko in a three set epic lasting over three hours. The diminutive Latvian saved two match points to level matters at 5-5 in the final set, but Sharapova would hold serve then break Ostapenko one last time for a watershed victory.

“It’s always nice to have a battle with a few ups and downs, and to finish strong,” said Sharapova afterwards.

“To get through a match like this against a really high-quality opponent and to end up winning it, I’m quite proud of the effort.”

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina earned a sixth straight win over two-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber, easing past her 6-4, 6-4 to reach the final four.

Waiting for the defending champion in the semi-final is Anna Kontaveit, who upset second seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1 in an entertaining match.