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(Reuters) - Romanian Simona Halep moved within one step of defending her Madrid Open crown, beating Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 6-2 6-3 in Friday's semi-final clash.
Halep has yet to win an ATP title this year, but victory against either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Kristina Mladenovic in Saturday's final at the Caja Majica would see her climb to fourth in the rankings.
Unseeded Sevastova was playing her first semi-final at premier mandatory level, the grade immediately below grand slam tournaments.
She went toe to toe with her higher-ranked opponent early in the match before Halep broke in the fifth and the seventh games and then comfortably served out the first set.
The defending champion got off on the wrong foot in the second, and trailed 3-0 after surrendering her first service game.
But some words of advice from coach Darren Cahill prompted a swift turnaround and she won the next six games to march into her third Madrid final in 73 minutes.
Halep finished runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014.
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by John Stonestreet