Madison Keys

World number five Simona Halep downed Madison Keys in the quarter finals of the Wuhan Open Thursday to book her place in the elite season-end WTA Final for the third consecutive year.

Big serving Keys took an early lead in the first set, breaking the Romanian’s serve twice, but was unable to maintain the momentum as Halep equalled and then took the set 6-4.

Halep — who turned 25 this week — dropped just two games to take the second set and confirm her place in the eight-player season finale in Singapore.

Only world number one Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams have so far qualified for the highly lucrative tournament, and the field remains wide open for the remaining five spots.

“It’s amazing to be qualified again for Singapore three years in a row. It’s a good thing. It gives me confidence,” Halep told reporters after the quarter final match.

In a similar way to Kerber, Halep plays off the strength of big hitters like Williams and Keys, who is often cast as the American veteran’s successor.

“She can hit very strong. She can miss some easy balls,” the Romanian said of her quarter final opponent.

“I don’t (have) big shots, but I have speed on the court… I like to take the ball fast. So when I do that, I think I can play at the highest level,” she added.

With Williams having taken only one Grand Slam title this year and slipped from her long-held number one spot in the rankings, Halep said earlier this week that she feels she now has a shot at the top.

“Every Grand Slam was another winner, Kerber two times this year. I feel now is more open. I feel that I have bigger chance,” said the Romanian, who ended last season as world number two but is yet to win a Slam.

Halep will meet either two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or Briton Johanna Konta in the semi-finals on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

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