Top seed Serena Williams powered through a tough, but decisive victory over 2015 BNP Paribas Open champion Simona Halep, 6-4, 6-3, to reach the semifinals.
With strong crowd support from her compatriots, Halep started strong with an early service break, but Williams proved undaunted throughout the 68-minute affair, putting down 28 winners and only 24 unforced errors, breaking serve four times to defeat the defending champion and reach her second straight Indian Wells semifinal.
“It’s a lot of love in this stadium, and a lot of Romanians,” Serena jokingly told Andrew Krasny during her on-court interview, offering her apologies to Halep’s unflappable fanbase. “Sorry guys, but there’s definitely a lot of love here.”
Williams and Halep had played two tricky matches in 2015, including a three setter almost exactly 52 weeks ago in the semifinals of the Miami Open; with the Romanian beginning to show signs of improvement after a slow start to the season, the American admitted to being on her guard coming into the match.
“She obviously has been in good form the past couple years,” she said during her post-match press conference. “So, yeah, I feel really good just to get under there and buckle down and to win that.”
Up next for the World No.1 is soon-to-be new World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska, who eased past two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, 6-2, 7-6(3). The two last played in the semifinals of the Australian Open, which Williams won in two emphatic sets.
“She knows how to play in big stadiums and big matches, big games. 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. Honestly, I will be ready.
“I really like Aga on and off the court. I think she’s super exciting to watch on the court, and off the court I think she’s really one of the nicest people. Regardless, I think it will be a really good matchup. Whoever wins will go into the final.
“It’s unfortunate it can’t be a final, but we’ll see how it goes. I don’t think she’s won this tournament yet, but obviously she probably wants to. We will see how that goes.”