INDIAN WELLS, USA – Simona Halep advanced a step closer to claiming a second BNP Paribas Open title after surviving a scare against Petra Martic, to face Naomi Osaka next.
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Simona Halep  v Naomi Osaka
Secure in the knowledge that she will keep the World No. 1 ranking after this week, Simona Halep had to contend with swirly wind and a spirited defense from Petra Martic to secure her spot in another BNP Paribas semi-final.
Halep is a player that wears her heart in her sleeve – it is what endears her to many, both fans and observers alike, and she said after the match that although she knows what she needs to do to get balance back again, she admitted that she had felt herself panicking when she found herself 1-4 down in the second set.
She clawed her way back on level terms forcing a momentum-swinging tie-break that Martic edged to take us into a decider. That momentum stayed with the Croatian as she broke for a 3-1 lead, but experience and a steady hand showed.
Halep broke twice in a row to surge ahead before serving the match confidently out.
“It was tough to play, because the ball was really moving, and we didn’t really know what’s going on on court. But I just tried everything. I tried also to push a little bit the ball and then to hit it, so to change, to mix. Was not easy at all. For both of us was
difficult. And definitely she’s a very good player, and was really tough to play against her.
“I wanted to do too many things (smiling). That’s why I couldn’t stay calm. I panicked a little bit. But, you know, you have just to keep the ball in play and just trying to find the angles. But also, you have to see where the wind is going, because you can be helped by the wind a little bit, but it’s really tough. Your body is sore all the time.”
Halep enjoys a commanding lead in the head to head over her semi-final opponent Naomi Osaka. The big hitting Japanese player effectively dismantled No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova in straight sets.
On a cold and blustery night, Osaka struck immediately breaking Pliskova in the first game and never really looked back in the first set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead before Pliskova looked even close to settling down, with Osaka comfortably closing out the first set.
With four successive breaks of serve to start off the second set, things looked to have settled down for a couple of games before Osaka turned the zcrew once more, breaking the Czech twice to land a spot in the semi-final for the first time.
Pliskova had to admit that she had not been on form at all, after her match. She told reporters: “I think I guess everything was a little bit off from my side, for sure, today. She was playing very well. I think hitting her spots,
forehands, even the backhands.
“I just battling all the way, even in serving, returning. I was definitely not feeling the best. A little bit tired I felt maybe because of the waiting. I don’t know.
“But these conditions, the evening one, it’s totally different compared to day. So just couldn’t get to the game what I was playing. I think I was playing pretty well the last few matches here. So I just couldn’t get to the rhythm what I had during the day.”
Osaka has been growing in confidence throughout this tournament, and while she is delightfully disarming in press, she has a keen eye for observation for her game and what was required for this match-up.
“I knew that I had to really pay a lot of attention when I was serving, because it could have turned into one of those matches where holding serve is very important. But when I got the break in the first game, I sort of shifted a little bit more attention to returning, because it seemed like she was a little bit unconfident on her serve today. I tried to focus a lot on returning and just making her play a lot of balls.”
Her head to head against Halep is pretty one-sided and the Romanian has shown that with either player, she enjoys absorbing the pace coming at her and using it against them. After engaging three setters in their first two encounters, last time they played at the Australian Open earlier this year, Halep was dominant, despite still struggling with the foot inury she picked up in the opening round.
Osaka said: “I made a lot of unforced errors while not really going for the shots that I had. So I’m just trying to commit more and also playing longer rallies at the same time. Also just being happy to be in this position right now.”
The two remaining quarter-finals will be played on Thursday.
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