Tennis

Halep into Italian Open semis after injured Kazakh opponent retires from match

Top-seeded Simona Halep became the first semifinalist at the Italian Open when Kazakh opponent Yulia Putintseva retired midway through their match due to a lower back injury Saturday.

Top seed is 8-0 since tennis restart

Simona Halep plays a backhand in her Italian Open quarter-final match against Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, who was forced to retire early in the second set on Saturday due to a lower back injury. (Angelo Carconi - Pool/Getty Images)

Top-seeded Simona Halep became the first semifinalist at the Italian Open when Kazakh opponent Yulia Putintseva retired midway through their match due to a lower back injury Saturday.

Halep, who lost two straight finals in Rome to Elina Svitolina in 2017 and 2018, will need to beat two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza to return to the championship match. Muguruza required more than two hours to eliminate U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

"(Muguruza) feels really well on (the) clay court and here," Halep said. "It's a big challenge.

"I really want to win this tournament," added Halep, who will be playing her fifth semifinal in Rome. "I love playing here. ... It's one of the biggest goals now."

WATCH | Halep on a roll since tennis restart:

World No. 2 Simona Halep moves on to the Italian Open semifinals when Yulia Putintseva retires midway through their match due to a lower back injury. 1:05

Halep was ahead 6-2, 2-0 when Putintseva decided she was in too much pain to continue — having already taken an off-court medical timeout between sets.

The 30th-ranked Putintseva was coming off two long three-set matches, having upset eighth-seeded Petra Martic and 10th-seeded Elena Rybakina. Entering the match, she had been on court for 7 hours, 22 minutes — far more than Halep, who had a bye in the opening round and won her next two matches in straight sets.

Putintseva also reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals in her previous tournament, while Halep decided to skip the event in New York due to coronavirus travel concerns.

Halep improved to 8-0 since the tennis restart and 12-0 overall stretching back to February.

The other women's semifinal will be an all Czech Republic affair between No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova and No. 12 seed Marketa Vondrousova.

Pliskova beat No. 11 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, while Vondrousova upset No. 4 seed Svitolina of the Ukraine, 6-3, 6-0.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Sports

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