Former world number one Simona Halep emphatically dispatched unseeded Petra Matric 6-1 6-1 in Wednesday's quarter-final at the Indian Wells Open.

Halep landed 75 per cent of her first-serves and won those points at a rate of 82 per cent (27/33).

Martic's serve commanded much less respect, as she landed 69 per cent of her first-serves, but only won 36 per cent of those points (8/22).

After holding in her first service game, Martic allowed Halep to rattle off six consecutive games, with three double-faults assisting her Romanian opponent.

With the win, Halep booked a semi-final matchup against Poland's number three seed Iga Swiatek after she prevailed in her meeting with American Madison Keys in similar fashion.

Two-time major winner Simona Halep secured a spot in the Indian Wells Open last 16 with a strong 6-3 6-4 victory over 16th seed Cori Gauff on Sunday.

Halep, who is aiming to rebuild her ranking in 2022 after an injury-hit second half of last year, was excellent with her return, particularly on Gauff's second serve to gain the edge.

The Romanian saved all four break points generated by Gauff, while she converted three of the nine break points that she created.

Halep, who started the year with victory at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 before a last-16 loss to Alize Cornet at the Australian Open, needed only one hour and 16 minutes to seal her progress.

She will next play Romanian compatriot Sorana Cirstea after the 26th seed won 5-7 6-1 6-0 against lucky loser Anna Kalinskaya.

Last year's US Open champion and British 11th seed Emma Raducanu was bundled out by Croatian world number 79 Petra Martic 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 7-5.

Raducanu had served for the match in the final set but the Croatian won the final three games. Martic triumphed in two hours and 46 minutes, reaching the last 16 at Indian Wells for the second time in her career.

Martic will face 28th seed Liudmila Samsonova who triumphed 6-4 7-6 (7-4) over Danka Kovinic.

Third seed Iga Swiatek came from a set down to win 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 6-1 over Clara Tauson in two hours and 18 minutes.

Swiatek has won seven straight matches and is unbeaten at WTA 1000 events this season, having triumphed in Doha last month.

The Pole will take on three-time major winner Angelique Kerber in the last 16 after the German won comfortably over Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-1.

American 25th seed Madison Keys got past countrywoman Alison Riske 7-6 (7-4) 6-1, setting up a fourth-round meeting with British qualifier Harriet Dart who beat Kaia Kanepi in straight sets.

Alison Riske produced a breathtaking comeback to beat Garbine Muguruza at the Indian Wells Open, turning around an apparent lost cause after losing the first nine games of the match.

Muguruza, who won the WTA Finals title at the end of last season, was cruising at 6-0 3-0, but 31-year-old American Riske, despite tossing her racket in frustration, refused to give up. Incredibly, she won 12 of the next 13 games to reach the third round at the expense of the world number nine.

"After the first set, it literally could not get any worse," Riske said in her on-court interview following a 0-6 6-3 6-1 success.

"So if I could try to get two balls in the court we might get somewhere. I was just trying to hang in there. I've played Garbine many times before and it's always been a battle."

This was Riske's fifth match against Spanish star Muguruza, and despite losing the first two of those, she had since beaten the two-time grand slam winner twice, albeit most recently at the 2019 US Open.

"I felt if I could get in there a little bit, I was going to have my chances," Riske said. "I know I've beaten her before, and if I could just bring out some of my game, good things were going to happen."

It was world number 53 Riske's 10th career victory against a player ranked in the top 10.

British player Harriet Dart pulled off a shock win over Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, as the world number 122 snatched a 2-6 6-3 6-3 victory over the 12th seed.

Three of the biggest names in the draw took the long route through to the last-32 stage, with Emma Raducanu, Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek taken to a deciding set in their opening matches, having benefited from first-round byes 

Raducanu fended off Caroline Garcia 6-1 3-6 6-1, while Halep was a 6-2 4-6 6-2 winner against Ekaterina Alexandrova, the Russian who is playing under a neutral flag.

Polish third seed Swiatek put a slow start behind her to beat Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina 5-7 6-0 6-1 and is looking to build on her recent Qatar Open triumph. She said: "I'm pretty happy I could turn my head on to fight mode and stay focused, because that was the key I guess."

Last year's Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova bowed out, the Czech seventh seed losing 2-6 7-5 6-4 to Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.

Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep both fell in the first round of the Qatar Ladies Open, while Garbine Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit eased through on Monday.

Former world number one Halep, champion in Qatar back in 2014, was off the pace as Caroline Garcia claimed just her second win in nine meetings against the Romanian with a 6-4 6-3 triumph.

Number 10 seed Svitolina also suffered an early exit after ending up on the wrong side of an almost three-hour slog, with Tereza Martincova eventually succeeding 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 7-6 (7-5).

But fifth favourite Muguruza – a two-time finalist, including in 2021 – did not have much as trouble as she outfought Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 in a second-round contest, with Kontaveit coasting through to round three in similar fashion with a 6-2 6-3 win over Ana Konjuh. 

Jelena Ostapenko, who is a former finalist in Doha and champion in Dubai last week, managed a sixth consecutive victory in the Middle East as she downed Oceane Dodin 6-4 6-2 to reach the second round, while 11th seed Elena Rybakina fell at the first hurdle to Jacques Cristian in a 6-4 6-3 loss.

Angelique Kerber, the 13th ranked player at the tournament, was another surprise first-round loser as she fell 4-6 6-3 6-2 to Jil Teichmann.

Cori Gauff secured her spot in the second round with a straightforward 6-2 6-3 victory over American compatriot Shelby Rogers, while 16th seed Elise Mertens battled to a 6-3 2-6 7-5 win over Jasmine Paolini.

Meanwhile, defending champion Petra Kvitova had no trouble easing past Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-1, and Daria Kasatkina edged out Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-2.

Jelena Ostapenko will meet Veronika Kudermetova in the Dubai Tennis Championships final after defeating Simona Halep 2-6 7-6 (7-0) 6-0 on Friday.

Ostapenko, who is the world number 21, stunned Halep in their first meeting in the 2017 Roland Garros final to win her first Grand Slam before the Romanian exacted revenge in Beijing later that season.

In their first meeting since that last-four clash, Halep raced out the blocks to wrap the first set in just 27 minutes as she converted both break-point opportunities to take an early lead.

However, Ostapenko responded emphatically in the following set, claiming a 3-0 advantage before eventually levelling things up after a one-sided tie-break separated the pair in the second.

Ostapenko carried her momentum in the deciding set as she made a blistering start, with Halep unable to win a single game as the 24-year-old secured victory in an hour and 36 minutes.

Kudermetova awaits the Latvian in the final after Marketa Vondrousova was forced to withdraw from her last-four match due to a right adductor injury.

The pair have not met before on the WTA Tour but boast identical records at the start of the 2022 season, with both winning eight of their matches and losing three.

Two-time champion Simona Halep strode through to the Dubai Tennis Championships semi-finals with a 6-4 6-3 win over eighth seed Ons Jabeur on Thursday.

A series of upsets meant Jabeur was the only seed left in the tournament going into Thursday, but she was outfought by Halep, whose win-loss record in 2022 now stands at 11-1.

The result followed two years on from Halep beating Jabeur in the second round at the same tournament, on that occasion needing a third-set tie-break to get the better of the Tunisia. Halep went on to win the title on that occasion.

"It was a very tough match. Even if it's in two sets, it felt much harder than that," Halep said of Thursday's win.

"I had in my mind big time the match from 2020, it was so close and I knew I'd have to fight till the end."

Quoted on the WTA website, former Wimbledon and French Open winner Halep added: "I've been focused on what I have to do, and I wanted just to push Jabeur back because she has such a big game."

Halep will face Jelena Ostapenko in the last four after the big-hitting Latvian overcame Petra Kvitova 5-7 7-5 7-6 (11-9).

Kvitova led by a set and a break, and twice served for the match, yet Ostapenko prevailed to add the 2013 Dubai champion to the scalps of Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek this week.

Ostapenko, who triumphed in two hours and 39 minutes, has now reached at least the semi-finals in four of her last seven tournaments.

The other semi-final will be contested by Veronika Kudermetova and Marketa Vondrousova.

Kudermetova reached her third career WTA 500 semi-final after beating lucky loser Jil Teichmann 6-2 5-7 6-4 in two hours and 23 minutes.

Vondrousova, meanwhile, became just the third ever qualifier to reach the last four of the tournament thanks to a 7-5 6-4 win over Dayana Yastremska.

Defending champion Garbine Muguruza, 2021 finalist Barbora Krejcikova and top seed Aryna Sabalenka were all eliminated from the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

A day of upsets left Ons Jabeur, the eighth seed, as the top remaining player in the draw.

Some big names helped deliver the shocks, though, with world number two Sabalenka usurped by two-time Wimbledon champion and 2013 Dubai winner Petra Kvitova in straight sets.

Muguruza did not look like being one of the scalps as her title defence continued against Veronika Kudermetova.

But after taking the first set, the reigning WTA Tour Finals champion went down 3-6 6-4 6-4.

French Open champion Krejcikova, beaten by Muguruza in the final last year, also exited the tournament at the hands of Dayana Yastremska 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

Iga Swiatek let a set lead slip to Jelena Ostapenko, while two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina collapsed to lucky loser Jil Teichmann 7-6 (7-0) 6-2.

Jabeur, a winner against Jessica Pegula, was the only seed to win in a ruthless round of 16.

However, her reward in a still stacked quarter-final draw is a meeting with Simona Halep, another who has twice won in Dubai.

Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Barbora Krejcikova had little difficulty progressing to the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. 

The unseeded Halep, who was champion in 2020, needed just an hour and 11 minutes to see off Alison Riske 6-2 6-4 as she looks to climb back up the rankings. 

The two-time grand slam winner went into this week ranked 23rd in the world after a difficult 2021 that was ravaged by injury, but she was in fine form against Riske. She showed good spirit to dig herself out of a hole in the second set and save two break points – the American's only ones in the entire match – in the fourth game. 

Swiatek, seeded sixth, was even more comfortable against Daria Kasatkina, defeating the Russian 6-1 6-2 in just 65 minutes. 

Kasatkina had no answer to Swiatek in the first set and, by the time she started to gain some form of momentum, she was already a set and a break down. 

Swiatek had few issues closing out the match and was joined in the second round by Petra Kvitova, who dropped just two games en route to an emphatic 6-2 6-0 defeat of Camila Giorgi. 

Krejcikova was the highest seed in action. The Czech, who lost to Garbine Muguruza in last year's final, was given a tougher examination than some of her rivals, with wildcard Caroline Garcia putting up a solid fight. 

Krejcikova came through 6-4 7-6 (7-0) in the end, blowing the Frenchwoman away in the second-set tie-break, though she will surely have to sharpen up if she is to go one better than 2021 – the 26-year-old hit just 12 winners to 28 unforced errors. 

There was also a victory for Jessica Pegula in an all-American affair with Coco Gauff that included 10 breaks of serve – the former won 6-4 6-4. 

 

An emotional Alize Cornet said "it is never too late to try again" after reaching her maiden grand slam quarter-final with victory over Simona Halep at the Australian Open.

Cornet, who celebrated her 32nd birthday on Saturday, battled to a 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory in stifling conditions on Rod Laver Arena to set up a last-eight showdown with Danielle Collins, who beat Elise Mertens in three sets.

The Frenchwoman has now defeated two in-form former number ones in Halep and Garbine Muguruza, having also recovered from a set and 1-4 down to overcome Tamara Zidansek.

She is through to her first quarter-final in what is her 63rd grand slam appearance and is the first Frenchwoman to reach this stage at Melbourne Park since Marion Bartoli in 2009.

Cornet is playing in her 60th straight major, and should she compete in the main draws at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows, will set a new record for consecutive appearances in grand slams.

"It feels amazing," Cornet said in her on-court interview with Jelena Dokic. "It was a battle with Simona today. In this heat after 30 minutes we were both dying on the court.

"We kept going for two and a half hours with all our heart. Congrats to Simona because I know she struggled a lot and I admire this player so much. 

"She's such a fighter and an example to me. To beat her today to go to my first quarter-final is a dream come true. I don't know what to say. It's just magic. It's never too late to try again.

"This is why I keep playing tennis, for this moment where I can share all these emotions on the court with you."

Cornet had reached the last 16 at majors on five occasions prior to her victory over Halep in a run dating back 13 years when narrowly missing out on the Australian Open quarter-finals.

She was pegged back from a set and break up against Halep, losing 16 straight points at one point, and was clearly struggling with the heat as the match dragged into a decider.

But Cornet, who recently suggested this might be her final season playing professional tennis, showed incredible resolve to break Halep in the seventh game and hold her own serve to break her quarter-final hoodoo.

Halep congratulated Cornet, posting to her official Instagram account: "You have been stronger today! All the respect for you, Alize. Enjoy. I'll keep working to get better for another three-hour match when we meet again."

In her post-match media duties, Halep said: "I have only nice words about her, because I like her on court, how she's fighting.

"She deserves what is happening to her now. She works hard all the time, and I wish her good luck. I really want her to make this dream coming true."

There was to be another emotional moment for Cornet at the end of her victory speech as she praised 2009 Australian Open quarter-finalist Dokic for her work off the court since retiring eight years ago.

"I want to thank my box, but also I want to tell you something... how you moved on in your life, I think we can all congratulate you. You were an amazing player and now an amazing commentator," Cornet said as the pair embraced on court.

Dokic, who last week called out social media trolls for body-shaming her, responded: "You just made me cry. I can’t believe I'm crying. Thank you. Alize Cornet."

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Ash Barty defeated Elena Rybakina in straight sets to claim the Adelaide International title, while Simona Halep clinched silverware in Melbourne.

World number one and heavy favourite Barty prevailed 6-3 6-2 against Rybakina to claim the Adelaide title for a second time in three seasons.

The 25-year-old recovered from 40-15 down in the seventh game and went on to immediately earn the only break of the opening set.

Barty did not look back as she held throughout the second set, meaning she went 35 consecutive games without losing serve to conclude the tournament.

After securing a 14th WTA singles title in a little over an hour, Barty now turns focus to next week's Sydney Tennis Classic ahead of beginning her Australian Open campaign.

"I feel good leading up to an Australian Open like I have every year," Barty, who hit 17 winners to 13 unforced errors, said after seeing off Rybakina. 

"Each and every preparation is unique. We take it for what comes and what it is, move on, try and do the best that we can in every opportunity.

"It has absolutely no effect on the way that I prepare or the way I'm thinking leading forward just because it's a Grand Slam. It doesn't change for us."

Halep, one of Barty's likely rivals for the Australian Open crown, also made a bright start to the year by overcoming Veronika Kudermetova in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 final.

The number two seed, who is aiming to put last year's injury-ravaged and trophyless season behind her, came out on top 6-2 6-3.

She recovered from an early break down in the first set and again in the second to make it 23 career titles, and a first since the 2020 Italian Open.

It could easily have been a different story, however, as Kudermetova had three break points to move 3-0 ahead in the second set, but the Russian could not take full advantage.

Amanda Anisimova defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich at the Melbourne Summer Set 2 final to claim the first WTA title of the season, and her second overall.

Belarusian qualifier Sasnovich hit back in style to take the second set 6-1 after losing the opener 7-5, but Anisimova recovered from a break down to edge the deciding set 6-4.

In doing so, Anisimova became the first American to win a title on Australian soil since Sofia Kenin's Australian Open triumph in 2020.

Naomi Osaka will be hoping to be fit for the Australian Open after the reigning champion withdrew from the Melbourne Summer Set 1.

Osaka, who won the most recent of her four grand slam titles last year at Melbourne Park, has looked in fine form this week in her first appearances since returning from the break she took from tennis last year.

The top seed beat Alize Cornet, Maryna Zanevska and Andrea Petkovic en route to the semi-finals, but could not compete against Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday, citing an abdominal injury.

Osaka explained that her body had taken a hit from playing such intense matches in consecutive days, and she instead is looking to rest and recover ahead of the first grand slam of the season, which starts on January 17.

"Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took," Osaka tweeted.

"Thank you for all the love this past week [Red heart] I’ll try to rest up and I’ll see you soon!"

Osaka's injury has prevented what looked to be an enticing showdown with Simona Halep, who guaranteed a place in a WTA Tour singles final for a 13th successive season by beating Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen 6-3 6-2.

Halep's first final came in 2010 and she has taken just a week to get back into her stride after an injury-ravaged 2021 season.

The Romanian, a two-time grand slam champion, went into the week ranked at world number 20, her lowest position at the start of a season since 2013.

However, she has now reached at least the semi-final stage in three successive tournaments, and she will fancy her chances against third seed Kudermetova, who is into her third singles final.

Ash Barty set a new personal best for aces in a match as she rifled 17 past Sofia Kenin on the way through to the Adelaide International 1 semi-finals.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty won 31 of 32 points on first serve in a ruthless 6-3 6-4 victory over the 2020 Australian Open winner.

It sets up a tantalising last-four clash with Poland's defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is a frequent practice partner for Australian home favourite Barty.

Explaining her stunning serving performance, Barty said: "I think towards the end Sofia was kind of leaning one way or the other, and I was able to kind of get up and hit my spots."

Facing former French Open winner Swiatek will be a major early-season test for the world number one, with the Warsaw-born 20-year-old fending off former grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Friday's quarter-final.

The other semi-final in Adelaide will see Misaki Doi take on Elena Rybakina after both won in three sets to get there, seeing off Kaja Juvan and Shelby Rogers respectively.

Melbourne Park is staging two tournaments this week, and there is the prospect of a starry final in Melbourne Summer Set 1, with Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep both through to the last four.

Top seed Osaka beat experienced German Andrea Petkovic 6-1 7-5, while second seed Halep had to scrap for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

Osaka took inspiration from Petkovic's fight in the second set of their contest. Quoted on the tournament website, she said: "It was really cool how she didn't give up for any point, so I just felt like I should do the same thing and see what happens."

Halep said her encounter with Golubic had been "really difficult", adding: "I didn't really trust that I can win this match, but I fought to the end, and I'm very proud of this."

Saturday's semi-finals of Melbourne Summer Set 2 will seed Daria Kasatkina take on Amanda Anisimova, while Ann Li plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Ash Barty produced an impressive comeback to defeat Coco Gauff in her first singles match since the US Open.

World number one Barty moved into the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International with a battling 4-6 7-5 6-1 triumph.

The home hope, who is favourite to win the Australian Open when it starts later this month, was a set and a break down against the American wonderkid before ultimately progressing in two hours and 12 minutes.

Exhausted after a six-month road trip that included Wimbledon glory last year, Barty took a break from the WTA Tour after her third-round exit at Flushing Meadows on September 5.

Her return came in a marquee matchup at the WTA 500 event which did not disappoint, as Barty battled to win 11 of the last 13 games and prevail.

The victor stemmed the early errors she was making on the forehand side, with Gauff paying the price for only converting three of her 15 break-point opportunities. 

It was only the second meeting between Barty and Gauff, with the Australian having to retire with an arm injury while leading their first encounter in Rome last year.

"I felt like I played a pretty good quality match considering it was my first match in a few months," said Barty.

"In the first set I was able to create opportunities but just was a little bit slack on the execution, rusty in the sense of stringing quality points together.

"Midway through the second set I was able to find my rhythm a little bit better on serve and just continued to be aggressive on my forehand. I just found execution a little bit more.

"Coco played great and forced me to hit a lot of balls. I felt I got better and better as the match went on. It was nice to get some court time."

An intriguing last-eight tie lies in wait for Barty. She will either play former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic.

And there was more good news for Barty as two of her main rivals for glory were eliminated.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka was surprisingly beaten as Kaja Juvan, the world number 100, prevailed 7-6 (8-6) 6-1.

Maria Sakkari, the third seed, also crashed out, beaten in three sets by Shelby Rogers, the player who knocked Barty out of the US Open the last time the Australian was on court.

There are two other tournaments taking place this week, both at WTA 250 level.

At Melbourne Summer Set 1, second seed Simona Halep joined Naomi Osaka in round two with a routine 6-4 6-2 win over Destanee Aiava.

The field is not as strong at Melbourne Summer Set 2, where the highest seed remaining, Daria Kasatkina, progressed after opponent Anna Kalinskaya, having already lost the first set, withdrew through injury.

World number one Ash Barty will start her 2022 season at the Adelaide International along with eight of the other current 10 top players in the world.

Barty has held top spot in the women's rankings since September 2019 and collected five titles – including Wimbledon – in the 2021 season but missed the French Open with a hip injury.

She also opted to not play in the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico due to coronavirus-enforced quarantine concerns that could disrupt her preparation for the following campaign.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed on Friday that Barty would begin her 2022 season in Adelaide on January 2, along with defending champion Iga Swiatek, WTA Finals victor Garbine Muguruza and Roland Garros winner Barbora Krejcikova, as the world's elite players prepare for the Australian Open.

The entry list for the WTA 500 tournaments also includes Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Barbara Bencic, who finished runner-up to Swiatek in 2021, former world number one Karolina Pliskova and US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

The field boasts 12 major trophies between them, but three grand slam winners will kick-start their seasons in Melbourne the day after.

Naomi Osaka, who is aiming to defend her title at the Australian Open, gets her preparations underway in the Melbourne Summer Set.

Two-time major winner Simona Halep and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu will play in the Melbourne Summer Set.

The trio are among 20 of the top 50 ranked players in the world for the two WTA 250 tournaments starting on January 3, with the entry list split between the competitions the week before matches start.

Raducanu will feature in just her eighth Tour-level event, and her fourth tournament since winning her first major, while Osaka will be appearing for the first time since an early defeat in the third round of the US Open to Fernandez.

Page 4 of 7
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.