Muguruza powers into semis

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Garbine Muguruza of Spain returns a shot to Caroline Garcia of France during their quarterfinal match of the Pan Pacific Open Tennis Tournament in Tokyo Friday. — AP

TOKYO — Newly-crowned world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza trounced France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-4 Friday to reach the semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open.

Earlier, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber won a war of attrition with second seed Karolina Pliskova to book her place in the last four.

Spaniard Muguruza, playing her first tournament since reaching the top of the women’s world rankings, never looked threatened in a one-sided quarterfinal.

The Wimbledon champion stormed to a 5-1 lead before ripping a half-court forehand into the corner to secure the first set.

Muguruza pounced on a short second serve with a murderous backhand to break early in the second and the top seed dealt calmly with fleeting resistance from Garcia.

The ninth seed gave herself a lifeline to level the set at 3-3 but was quickly put in her place when Muguruza beat her with a ferocious backhand pass to restore normal service.

A crunching serve down the middle put Garcia out of her misery after 81 minutes as Muguruza advanced to face title holder Caroline Wozniacki.

Kerber, seeded seventh and a former Tokyo finalist, came through 7-6, 7-5 as she repelled some brutal hitting from her Czech opponent in a contest of real quality.

Pliskova, who herself briefly held the women’s top ranking over the summer, produced moments of brilliance at the net but ultimately crumbled under relentless pressure from the German.

One of her eight double-faults gifted Kerber the first-set tiebreak 7-5 before Pliskova unravelled again at the business end of the second set.

Kerber turned the screw in the 12th game, forcing Pliskova to save four match points before delivering the coup de grace with a vicious, dipping backhand that landed on the Czech’s shoelaces, giving her no chance.

The 29-year-old Kerber, who has slipped back to 14th in the world since winning last year’s Australian and US Open titles, faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the last four.

The Russian advanced by overcoming another Czech, Barbora Strycova, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Two-time winner Wozniacki progressed after Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova retired with a thigh injury while trailing 3-6, 7-6, 3-1.

Ostapenko in semifinals

Top seed Jelena Ostapenko surged past Veronica Cepede Royg 6-3, 6-1, Friday to reach the final four at the WTA Korea Open as she continues a storming run of matches.

The French Open champion has not dropped a set since becoming the first Latvian to break into the WTA Top 10 when she advanced into 10th place earlier this month. Ostapenko is now set to face surging Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum, who barreled her way into her first WTA semifinal since Osaka 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3 upset over No.4 seed Sorana Cirstea.

Elsewhere, Dutch No. 2 Richel Hogenkamp saw off 19-year-old Australian qualifier Priscilla Hon 6-3, 6-4 to move into her maiden WTA semifinal.

Goffin in quarters

Second-seeded David Goffin hit 13 aces to rally past Nicolas Almagro 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and reach the quarterfinals at the Moselle Open on Thursday.

Defending champion Lucas Pouille, who won his maiden title at the same tournament last year, lost to 86th-ranked Marius Copil of Romania 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6).

Goffin put on a dominant display on his serve, dropping just two points on his first service in the final set.

He will be up against local Benoit Paire in the next round at the indoor tournament after the Frenchman eased past Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2.

No. 4 Gilles Muller was beaten by Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia. 6-4, 6-4.

Fifth-seeded Mischa Zverev of Germany passed Henri Laaksonen 6-4, 6-4 and will take on lucky loser Kenny De Schepper in the quarterfinals. — Agencies


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