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Simona Halep dominates in Australian Open

Two-time major winners Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza will play for a spot in the Australian Open women’s final after winning their quarterfinal matches in straight sets Wednesday.

Each has won Wimbledon and the French Open, and each is bidding for a first Grand Slam tournament title on a hard court.

Halep has been close, losing to Caroline Wozniacki in three sets in the final at Melbourne Park in 2018.

The 28-year-old Romanian said that defeat was the main push for her breakthrough victory that year in Paris, where she beat Muguruza in the semifinals.

Halep, seeded fourth, needed only 53 minutes to get past first-time major quarterfinalist Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-1, 6-1 in Rod Laver Arena.

Muguruza took a little more than 1 1/2 hours to eliminated No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5, 6-3, with both players struggling with their serves in the sun.

The victory earned the unseeded Spaniard a spot in the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time, and her first at any Grand Slam tournament since the French Open in 2018.

The loss dropped Pavlyuchenkova to 0-6 in quarterfinal matches at majors; she has entered 49 Grand Slam events without reaching the final four.

There are three major winners in the last four, with reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty playing No. 14 Sofia Kenin in the other women’s semifinal Thursday.

The top-ranked Barty is trying to end a drought for Australians at home: The last woman to win the singles championship was Chris O’Neil in 1978.

Halep spent her offseason away from home for the first time so she could focus fully on 2020 and her quest for a third major title.

“No days off,” Halep said.

Kontaveit held the opening game at love. From then on, it was all one way as Halep went on an 11-game roll.

Halep faced only one break point, fending it off with a commanding forehand winner.

In the second set, Halep won the longest rally of the match — a 25-shot exchange — and then followed it up immediately with an ace on the way to a 5-0 lead.

“I felt great today on court. I feel my game. I feel strong on my legs. I’ve been focused, every point,” Halep said.

In a men’s match, Alexander Zverev of Germany reached the first Grand Slam event semifinal of his career by eliminating three-time major champion and No. 15 seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

The seventh-seeded Zverev shook off a slow start to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Wawrinka, a right-hander, had a lot of trouble over the last three sets with his signature backhand.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain was scheduled to play a men’s quarterfinal match against fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria on Wednesday night.

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