INDIAN WELLS

Williams beats Halep as Nadal, Djokovic go through

The world number one will play Agnieska Radwanska for a place in the final. Nadal survived a tough match against "future number one" Zverev.

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Williams beats Halep as Nadal, Djokovic go through
JULIAN FINNEY AFP

A dominant Serena Williams proved far too strong for defending champion Simona Halep as the American eased into the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-4 6-3 victory on Wednesday.

The world number one has yet to drop a set in four matches in California, and Williams made a tricky opponent on paper look completely over-matched in the quarter-final encounter.

The 21-time grand slam champion blasted 28 winners to Halep's nine. She also recorded seven aces, aptly closing out the match with an unreturnable serve down the middle. Williams also broke the Romanian's serve four times and improved her head-to-head record to 7-1 against her fifth-seeded opponent.

A right knee injury forced Williams to withdraw from the event last year, when she ended a self-imposed 14-year absence at the tournament, giving Halep a walkover in their scheduled semi-final.

Halep ultimately defeated Jelena Jankovic to capture the crown but her defeat to Williams keeps the American on course for a first Indian Wells triumph since 2001.

Third seed Agnieska Radwanska stands between Williams and a spot in the final, with the world number one expecting a tough challenge from the Pole.

"[Radwanska] knows how to play in big stadiums and big matches, big games," Williams told reporters. "Obviously she does everything so well, including running and this is a good surface for her because it's a slow surface. I think I expect there will be a lot of long rallies."

Radwanska booked her semi-final berth when she fought back from 5-2 down in the second set on the way to a 6-2 7-6(3) victory over world number nine Petra Kvitova.

The 27-year-old, who was a runner-up at the event two years ago, raced into a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak before wrapping up victory after a little more than an hour-and-a-half at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

"I am just so happy to be in the semi-finals here," Radwanska, who will rise to number two in the next world rankings following the win, said. "I have nothing to lose, will have a good rest and be ready for the semis."

Agnieszka Radwanska returns to Petra Kvitova.

Radwanska, who beat Jankovic in the previous round, breezed through the opening set against an error-prone Kvitova on a baking afternoon in the California desert.

Though the Czech produced much better form to open a three-game lead in the second, Radwanska clawed back the deficit before dominating the tiebreak with the help of a few generous net cords. 

Victoria Azarenka will play Magdalena Rybarikova and Karolina Pliskova will take on Daria Kasatkina in the second set of quarterfinals later on Thursday.

In the men’s draw Rafa Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic remained on course Wednesday for a mouth-watering Indian Wells semi-final, while Swiss Stan Wawrinka exited in a match he described as a no-brainer.

World number five Nadal survived a scare from Alexander Zverev, rallying to beat the German teenager 6-7 (8/10), 6-0, 7-5 and reach the quarter-finals.

Two-time defending champion Djokovic cruised into the quarters by beating Feliciano López 6-3, 6-3 but French Open champion Stan Wawrinka bit the dust in the joint ATP and WTA Tour tournament.

Nadal, who saved a match point in the third set, said he had to adjust quickly to 18-year-old Zverev's style, especially the German's second serve. "With his second serve at 120 mph, with a lot of spin and at 124, 123, 120 mph, it was impossible," Nadal said. "If he puts the first serve in at over 130 mph then you are in big trouble. So I think that I'm here, and still alive."

Rafael Nadal celebrates victory over Alexander Zverev.

Indeed, Zverev had the 14-time Grand Slam champion on the ropes for much of Wednesday's two and a half hour contest. Following the match the Spaniard predicted great things for the teen. "He is amazingly talented. He is probably going to be the number one in the world," said Nadal after their first career meeting.

The contest on the main stadium court in front of a crowd of about 10,000 turned on match point in the ninth game with Zverev serving and leading 5-3 in games.

Up 40-30, the German then made three straight unforced errors to hand the game to Nadal. The nine-time French Open winner Nadal then used his experience to seize control and win the final three games and close out the match.

"I am happy about the way I fought," Nadal said. "I was able to find some solutions in tough moments."

Nadal moves on to face Kei Nishikori of Japan, who rallied to beat American John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5).

Djokovic will battle seventh seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who beat Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-2.

Djokovic wasted no time avenging the only blemish on his 2016 record. Last month in Dubai, Djokovic retired against López after losing the first set because of an eye infection. Djokovic, who is going for a record fifth Indian Wells title, is now 19-1 this season.

"I'm glad to have a match like this, without many complications," Djokovic said. "I managed to step in and return very well."

Wawrinka was sent crashing out of the event in the fourth round by David Goffin. "It was a match without a brain," said the Swiss, who lost 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/5) to 15th seed Goffin.

Wawrinka had his serve broken seven times after dropping his serve just once in his previous two matches at Indian Wells. "I had a tough time staying focused and being patient. I still tried to fight," Wawrinka said. "He deserved to win."

Stan Wawrinka described his match against David Goffin as a "no-brainer."

There were 13 total service breaks in the two hour, 25 minute marathon match. "Two times I came back. I had the chance in the third set to break him and finish it at 5-5 and I didn't," said Wawrinka.

Goffin advances to the quarter-finals, where he will face Marin Cilic, who defeated France's Richard Gasquet 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in another three-set thriller.

Goffin's victory snaps a 14-match losing streak for the Belgian against top-10 opponents. His last win over a top-10 player was against Milos Raonic in 2014 at Basel.

Hard-serving Canadian Raonic toppled sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (9/7). Raonic's victory over Nadal in the quarters at Indian Wells last year was voted one of the top matches of 2015. Raonic said he is playing at a much higher level this year than when he upset Nadal 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), 7-5.

"I have significantly improved over time," said the world number 12. "I'm pretty efficient at the net now. I cover the angles I'm supposed to cover. I make the volleys I'm supposed to make."

Raonic will face France's Gaël Monfils, who defeated clay court specialist Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-4.