US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka lost a three-set thriller to Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali d'Italia to set up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep. 

Muguruza beat her fellow former world number one 3-6 6-3 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes, having been one point away from falling 5-3 down in an entertaining decider at Foro Italico. 

The 2016 French Open winner managed to hold her serve on that occasion, then broke to love in the next game before going on to seal the match at the third attempt. 

"I think it was a tough match. I knew it was going to be a tough match. She's a good player, she's playing good, she's with a lot of confidence," said Muguruza. 

"I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I was ready for it. I stood behind her and was waiting for my opportunities. She was playing great at the beginning. She took the first set. I kept myself together and said, 'Okay, let's start another battle in the second set'."

Next up for Muguruza is two-time Rome finalist Halep, who saw Yulia Putintseva retire from their quarter-final meeting due to a lower back injury. 

After dropping her serve to fall 6-2 2-0 down to the world number two in 47 minutes, Putintseva, who played back-to-back three-set matches in the previous two rounds, pulled out of the match. 

Halep said of Muguruza: "Every time I played well against her, [I was] as much as possible aggressive. If I play my best game and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she's playing so hard. 

"You don't really know what to expect. It's tough every time. So I don't plan for a specific match, because you never know on court."

Two-time Internazionali d'Italia champion Elina Svitolina was comprehensively beaten 6-3 6-0 by Marketa Vondrousova, who was the runner-up at last year's French Open. 

Standing between Vondrousova and her first final appearance since Roland Garros last year is reigning champion Karolina Pliskova. 

Second seed Pliskova overcame Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0 as she continued to impress after initially struggling when the WTA Tour returned in August.

Jennifer Brady said she was "thrilled" to reach the first grand slam semi-final of her career as the American saw off Yulia Putintseva at the US Open.

After emerging from lockdown to take her first WTA title at the Top Seed Open last month, Brady continued her bright run by scoring a 6-3 6-2 win on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Remarkably, the world number 41 has yet to drop a set in five singles matches this year at Flushing Meadows, with Putintseva joining a list of victims that includes former champion Angelique Kerber and dangerous French player Caroline Garcia.

Emerging from a top quarter of the draw that initially contained top seed Karolina Pliskova, Brady's power, coupled to more than a little finesse, has taken her through to a clash with Japan's Naomi Osaka or fellow US star Shelby Rogers next.

She sped into a 4-0 lead against Putintseva, whose guile was being outmatched by the strength and accuracy of Brady, unlike in their two previous meetings, both in 2018, when the Russian-born Kazakh player came out on top each time.

Recovering a break and getting back to 5-3 asked questions of Brady, but she had all the answers. Despite dropping serve when a break ahead early in the second set, Brady was unperturbed, her opponent being swiftly swatted out of the tournament.

A lob to set up three break points at 4-2 showed there was plenty of craft in Brady's game, as well as the zip in her shots, and she sealed the double break by winning a battle at the net.

Barely a couple of minutes later, Putintseva sent a service return long on match point, with Brady correctly challenging after the line judge failed to pick it out.

Brady had wins this year over world number one Ash Barty and Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza before the tours went into lockdown in March, signalling perhaps there was a grand slam run in her.

Speaking of her win over Putintseva, Brady said on Amazon Prime: "The last couple of times I played her I got caught into playing her game and I don't think I'm better than her at just running and making balls, so I was definitely a lot more aggressive today.

"I came out with nerves obviously and I think she did too. I was happy with the way I started and then I think I was able to keep the momentum and build off that.

"I'm thrilled to be in the semi-finals here at the US Open. I'm just taking one match at a time. I'm very happy."

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  

Brady [28] beat Putintseva [23] 6-3 6-2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   

Brady – 22/24
Putintseva – 7/9

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   

Brady – 6/0
Putintseva – 1/1

BREAK POINTS WON    

Brady – 5/7
Putintseva – 2/2

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   

Brady – 63
Putintseva – 64

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   

Brady – 58/72
Putintseva – 52/44

TOTAL POINTS   

Brady – 54
Putintseva – 40

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