Australian Open: Resurgent Muguruza sets up semifinal clash against Halep

Muguruza defeated Russia's 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3

garbine-muguruza-afp Garbine Muguruza celebrates after beating Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during their women's singles quarterfinal match at the Australian Open | AFP

Unseeded Garbine Muguruza underlined her return to form by reaching the Australian Open semifinal for the first time Wednesday, setting up a clash with fellow two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, after reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal since Roland Garros in 2018.

The 26-year-old Spaniard, a former world number one, defeated Russia's 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 in a hot and sunny Melbourne.

The other semifinal on Thursday sees top seed and home hope Ashleigh Barty face American 14th seed Sofia Kenin.

Pavlyuchenkova, 28, who won the girls' Australian Open title in 2006 and 2007, and Muguruza twice exchanged breaks in the first set for 4-4.

But Muguruza got the decisive break at 5-4 up when the Russian put her backhand long, the Spaniard sealing the first set in 56 minutes on first set point.

Pavlyuchenkova struggled with her serve in the second set and Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion and Wimbledon winner in 2017, served for the match at 5-3, sealing it with a drop volley.

It extends a rotten run of last-eight defeats for Pavlyuchenkova, who in 49 Grand Slam tournaments has reached six quarterfinals without ever going further.

Earlier, Halep powered into the semifinals in 53 minutes with a 6-1, 6-1 destruction of Estonia's Anett Kontaveit.

The 28-year-old Halep, the only quarterfinalist not to drop a set, is bidding to add the Australian Open title to her 2018 French Open crown and last year's Wimbledon triumph.

Halep wasted no time asserting her authority over 28th seed Kontaveit, who was contesting her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Halep broke the 24-year-old in the third game of the first set, then again in the fifth game. Spectators at Rod Laver Arena had barely had time to settle into their seats.

The former world number one sealed a one-sided first set in 29 minutes with a rocket of a forehand that the overwhelmed Estonian had no chance of retrieving.

Halep broke again at the start of the second set and wrapped up a dominant victory in style, sending down an ace.