Nobody's perfect, but Simona Halep comes close in Australian Open quarterfinal rout

Halep cruises to semis (0:33)

Simona Halep defeats Anett Kontaveit 6-1, 6-1 in 53 minutes to secure her berth in the semifinals. (0:33)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- After spending just 53 minutes on the tennis court Wednesday, an energized Simona Halep grabbed her racket bag and cheerfully made her way to her postmatch interview.

"So, Simona, are you running late to an engagement or something?" asked the on-court interviewer, clearly in awe of her speedy performance.

Halep laughed -- her trademark intensity nowhere on her face -- and later confessed that she was hoping to go shopping in the afternoon (she wouldn't divulge for what) as the crowd at Rod Laver Arena looked on adoringly and latched on to her every word. She seemed remarkably relaxed for someone who had just advanced to the semifinal round at a Grand Slam.

However, with a final score of 6-1, 6-1 and having rattled off 11 games in a row against Anett Kontaveit after dropping the first one, Halep was very much in control for most of the match. The tournament's No. 4 seed dominated from the start -- or at least the second game -- to finish with five aces and a 78% win rate on her first-serve points. Halep broke serve on five of 11 break-point chances and won 53% of her return points on the day.

The 28-year-old Romanian became the first woman since 2000 to lose just two games in a completed quarterfinal match at the tournament. Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati both did so that year.

Halep understandably seemed pleased with her showing.

"Perfection doesn't exist, but I'm very happy with the way I played," she said. "I felt great on court. I was moving great. I felt the ball, like, really, really good. It was a great match."

Perhaps even more impressively, she stormed into the semifinal without having dropped a set in the tournament. This was her latest impressive victory in a string of them. With her having played just two matches this year before Melbourne, it was unclear how Halep would fare in 2020's maiden Slam, but she has been all but unstoppable thus far. Aside from needing a tiebreak in the first set of her first match against Jennifer Brady, Halep has cruised and never given any of her opponents much of a chance.

"Simona played an incredible match," said Kontaveit, the 28-seed who was playing in her first major quarterfinal. "I was trying to do everything. I mean, she was just so strong today. Yeah, couldn't find a weapon. I was trying to be aggressive, but couldn't hit through her.

"Of course, I knew she's a great player. I was expecting her to be really tough. But maybe, yeah, I mean, it was hard, my shots not being as effective as they would probably [be] against a lot of other players."

Halep is looking to add to her list of major titles, which includes Wimbledon in 2019 and the French Open in 2018, and become the third player in history to win her first three Grand Slams on three different surfaces. Serena Williams, whom Halep beat in the final at the All England Club in July, was the last to do so in 2002.

Thursday will mark the eighth major semifinal appearance for Halep, and she will face Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon champion, in a match featuring two former No. 1 players. Halep is 2-3 against the resurgent Spanish star, but she won their most recent meeting in the 2018 semifinals at Roland Garros. The winner will take on current No. 1 (and hometown favorite) Ashleigh Barty or American rising star Sofia Kenin in Saturday's final.

Halep's calm demeanor in her postmatch interview showed the smallest of cracks only when she talked about her 2018 Australian Open final loss to Caroline Wozniacki. It became abundantly clear that the outcome still stings and is motivation for her present run in Australia. Halep lost 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in three highly contested sets and struggled down the stretch.

It doesn't seem like she'll allow that to happen again.

"It hurt a lot because I lost 6-4 in the third -- I couldn't finish the match. Maybe I was too nervous at that moment, but now I have more experience," she said. "That match helped me to win the two Grand Slams I have already, and maybe it is the way to go to the third, but it is still very far away.

"I just want to give everything I have in the next match, and why not? Maybe I can repeat again."