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Tennis | WTA

Belinda Bencic © Getty Images

Kerber holds off Venus to reach Indian Wells semis

World No 8 Angelique Kerber denied Venus Williams a second straight Indian Wells semifinal appearance on Thursday, downing the seven-time Grand Slam champion 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

Germany's Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam winner dominated the tiebreaker to grab a hard-fought first set that featured four breaks of serve.

The German had to fight for the lone break of the second set as Williams saved four break points to hold for 2-2 and saved four more in the sixth game before Kerber finally converted one for a 4-2 lead that would stand up the rest of the way.

Kerber booked a semifinal showdown with red-hot Belinda Bencic, who stretched her WTA match winning streak to 12-0 with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over fifth-ranked Karolina Pliskova.

Bencic, a former world No 7 whose ranking slumped as injuries stalled her career, showed no sign of a let-down after her fourth-round victory over world No 1 and defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Six of the victories in her 12-match streak have come against top-10 players, and Bencic is thrilled to be riding the wave of success – looking forward eagerly to taking on eighth-ranked Kerber for a place in the final.

"Of course I'm very confident," said Bencic, who rose to 23 in the world with her first WTA title in four years at Dubai last month and will crack the top 10 by virtue of reaching the semis here.

"I'm not putting pressure on myself even now," the 22-year-old said. "I'm just playing. The less I think on the court the better it is.

"When you're confident you can just trust your instincts and you don't have to think about it at all. I'm definitely playing how I feel it, and it's going so well I'm not planning on changing that."

Pliskova launched her season with a 12th career title in Brisbane, and shocked Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open semifinals.

After dropping the first set she came back strong in the second, winning the first four games as she forced a decisive third set, although not before Bencic saved four set points.

Close games marked the start of the third, with Pliskova fighting off four break points in a game that went to eight deuces to hold for 2-2.

But Bencic held her next two service games with authority and broke for a 5-3 lead, finally sealing the match with a serve that was too much for Pliskova.

Pliskova couldn't find much good to say about her own game, although she was pleased she was able to force the third set.

"I think (it's) good that I fought, that it went to the third set, but otherwise not even close to my good tennis," she said.


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