Birmingham | Halep sweeps past Boulter to meet Haddad Maia in semi-finals

Simona Halep brought an end to home hope Katie Boulter’s run at the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham on Friday, and the 2nd-seed will meet Brazilian surprise grass court success Beatriz Haddad Maia in the semi-finals, while her Romanian compatriot, Sorana Cirstea, edged past Donna Vekic to set up a Last 4 meeting with China’s Zhang Shuai, who defeated Dayana Yastremska from Ukraine.

Halep, a former World No 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, proved a step too far for the British No 4, who faded 6-4 6-1 after an hour and 15 minutes.

The Romanian has picked up right where she left off during her run to the Wimbledon title in 2019 in Birmingham this week, extending her grass-court winning streak to 10 matches in a row with her quarter-final win over Boulter.

She has also won her last 17 sets in a row on grass, winning 16 of those 17 sets by a scoreline of 6-4 or easier, only pushed to a tiebreak in the first set of her quarter-final victory over Zhang Shuai at Wimbledon 3 years ago.

The grass-court season was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Halep missed competing on the grass in 2021, unable to defend her title at Wimbledon because of a calf injury, which also kept her out of Roland Garros.


Katie Boulter put up great resistance in the first set but faded in the second against Simona Halep at the Edgbaston Priory Club

© Stephen Pond/Getty Images for LTA

Boulter has been on her best form this week, beating Alison Riske in the first round of the WTA 250 Wimbledon warm-up tournament before knocking out former top-10 player Caroline Garcia, both in straight sets, but Halep proved too strong on this day.

The Romanian’s last loss on the grass came to Angelique Kerber in the quarters at Eastbourne in 2019, just a few days before she began her run to the Wimbledon crown.

Her grass court prowess proved too skilled for Boulter, although the Brit, who only returned from nearly 3 months out with a leg injury at Nottingham last week, kept pace with Halep for the opening 8 games.

The 25-year-old, to her credit, saved 3 break points at 4-4 only to double-fault on the fourth, which was all that Halep needed to pull away in what is her first grass-court event since her superb straight sets win over Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final.

It has not taken the 30-year old long to find her feet again, and her relentlessness from the baseline broke down the power game of Boulter, who lost 5 service games in a row.

Halep won only 56% of her first-serve points to Boulter’s 60%, but she did better in terms of second-serve points won, winning 67% to the Briton’s 37%, and she went on to save 3 of the 4 break points she faced while converting 5 break points on Boulter’s serve.


Beatriz Haddad Maia is becoming a formidable force on grass as she dispatched Camila Giorgi in straight sets to meet Simona Halep in the Birmingham semi-finals

© Stephen Pond/Getty Images for LTA

In the semi-finals, Halep will play Haddad Maia, who had to play 2 matches after her 2nd-round match against Magdalena Frech from Poland, scheduled for Wednesday, was suspended deep in the 3rd set and then postponed to Thursday.

Frech was leading Haddad Maia in the decider but when play resumed on Friday, the left-handed Brazilian stormed back to clinch the match, 6-1 5-7 7-6(3).

Later, in her quarter-final against the 3rd-seeded Camila Giorgi, Haddad Maia had an easier outing as she took out the Italian, 6-3 6-2, in an hour and 24 minutes.

Haddad Maia goes into her semi-final against Halep on an 8-match winning streak, having won the Rothesay Open in Nottingham on Sunday.

By her own admission, she is new to grass-court play, saying ‘I never thought in my life that my first title would come on grass’ in her on court interview last Sunday.

“I think because of that I didn’t create any expectation, every single point I was giving my 100%. I’m very happy to win my first title here – Nottingham will forever be in my heart.”

Haddad Maia went on to win the doubles title that same day, proving that the Brazilian’s powerful, left-handed game is well-suited to grass.


Sorana Cirstea made it two Romanians in the Last 4 after getting past Donna Vekic at the Rothesay Classic Birmingham

© Stephen Pond/Getty Images for LTA

Meanwhile, another Romanian, 6th-seed Cirstea, posted a come-back win in her Last 8 encounter with Vekic, winning through 5-7 6-3 6-4 in 2 hours and 29 minutes.

Cirstea converted 6 break points on Vekic’s serve while saving 5 of the 10 break points she faced.

For a place in Sunday’s final, Cirstea will play the No 8 seed, Zhang, at the top of the draw, after the Chinese ousted Yastremska in their quarter-final, 7-5 6-4 in an hour and 16 minutes.

Zhang won 74% of her first-serve points and 62% of her second-serve points to the Ukrainian’s 64% and 48% respectively, while she conceded her serve twice while converting 4 break points on Yastremska’s serve.


Shuai Zhang dispatched Dayana Yastremska and will take on Sorana Cirstea in the Birmingham semi-finals on Saturday

© Stephen Pond/Getty Images for LTA

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