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Former Wimbledon champion Halep into Birmingham semifinals

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BIRMINGHAM: Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep booked her place in the semifinals of the WTA Birmingham grass-court event with a straight sets win over Britain's Katie Boulter on Friday.

Boulter had been in career-best form at the tournament, defeating Alison Riske in the first round of the Wimbledon warm-up before knocking out former top-10 player Caroline Garcia.

But second seed Halep ultimately proved too strong in a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

The 30-year-old Romanian, however, did not have things all her own way in a tightly-contested first set.

Boulter, who only returned from nearly three months out with a leg injury at Nottingham last week, kept pace with Halep for the opening eight games.

The 25-year-old, to her credit, saved three break points at 4-4 only to double fault on the fourth.

That proved to be the cue for Halep to pull away in what is her first grass-court event since a superb straight sets win over Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbeldon final.

Sorana Cirstea made it a day of double celebration for Romania by also reaching the semifinals after coming from a set down to defeat Donna Vekic 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Cirstea will face Zhang Shuai in the last four following the Chinese eighth seed's 7-5, 6-4 win over Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska. — AFP

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