Halep closes in on first Rome title with semi-final berth

By: AFP      Published: 06:28 PM, 19 Sep, 2020
Halep closes in on first Rome title with semi-final berth

Top seed Simona Halep advanced to the semi-finals of the Italian Open for the fifth time on Saturday after Kazakh rival Yulia Putintseva retired injured while trailing during their match on Saturday.

The world number two was leading 6-2, 2-0 in the quarter-final clash on clay in Rome when Putintseva signalled that she was retiring after 45 minutes of play with a lower back injury.

It allowed former French Open winner Halep to keep on track to win a tournament she has finished runner-up twice, in 2017 and 2018.

"I really want to win this tournament," said Halep

"I love playing here, and I did semi-finals five times, five years, so probably I will have a chance in this future, close future.

"Yeah, it's one of the biggest goals now. I love Rome, I love Italy, and every time I have a chance I come on holiday here, so I feel really good when I play here in Italy."

Putintseva, ranked 30, had reached the quarter-finals of the recent hard court US Open, a tournament which Halep skipped because of coronavirus concerns.  

And the Romanian said she was pleased with her return on clay with her three wins in Rome this week extending her streak this season to 12 consecutive victories.

She won the Dubai title in February, before the coronavirus lockdown, coming back to claim victory in Prague last month.

"It was really good that I didn't miss much," she said of Saturday's match played on front of empty stands in the Foro Italico.

"Serve was great. The return was not great, but still, I take it as a very good match. Maybe the best of this tournament."

Halep next meets either Belarussian Victoria Arazenka or Spaniard Garbine Muguruza for a place in the final of the clay-court tournament.

Halep said she was looking forward to the "good energy" generated by the crowd with games from Sunday's semi-finals to be played in front of 1,000 spectators.

"It will be interesting and nice to have some people in the stands."