Simona Halep reached the Australian Open final in 2018, losing to Caroline Wozniacki
Simona Halep brilliantly took apart Anett Kontaveit in just 53 minutes to race into the Australian Open semi-finals.
Estonian Kontaveit, 24, won the first game but was never in it from that point as Halep raced to a 6-1 6-1 win.
Wimbledon champion Halep won 11 games in a row before the 28th seed managed to hold serve in the penultimate game.
The Romanian, 28, will face Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, 26, in the last four in Melbourne.
Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion but unseeded here, beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5 6-3.
Fourth seed Halep is yet to drop a set at this year’s tournament and was never in danger of doing so on Rod Laver Arena, totally dominating Kontaveit once she had the first break in the third game of the match.
“I felt great on court. I feel strong in my legs and I knew how to play against her. I was focused in every point I played,” said Halep.
Kontaveit, playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, had beaten sixth seed Belinda Bencic in 49 minutes in the third round but was on the wrong side of a hammering in the quarter-finals.
Halep moved Kontaveit around the court throughout and was ruthless in knowing when to increase the pace and kill off points, sealing a superb victory with her fifth ace.
Muguruza into first Slam semi-final since 2018
Garbine Muguruza is through to the last four in Melbourne for the first time
Muguruza did not look a contender for the title when, afflicted by illness, she lost her first set at this year’s tournament 6-0 to American Shelby Rogers.
She has improved dramatically since then though. Fifth seed Elina Svitolina and ninth seed Kiki Bertens were beaten in straight sets in the previous two rounds and 30th seed Pavlyuchenkova went the same way on Wednesday.
The Russian was twice a break up in the first set but was broken straight back both times. Serving to force a tie-break in the opener, she threw in three double faults and then sent a backhand long to gift Muguruza the set.
Pavlyuchenkova, trying to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time at the sixth attempt, broke in the first game of the second set but once again could not consolidate and Muguruza’s confidence increased as her opponent became increasingly erratic.
Another double fault gifted Muguruza the decisive break in the sixth game of the set and a backhand volley ensured the Spaniard’s progress to her first Grand Slam semi-final since the 2018 French Open.
She will face Halep on Thursday with the other last-four tie between Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty and American 14th seed Sofia Kenin.
Muguruza said: “I’m excited to play my first semi-final here. I’ve known her [Halep] for quite a long time so it’s going to be a tough match.”