MELBOURNE — Garbine Muguruza stormed back into the Grand Slam big time with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach her first Australian Open semi-final on Wednesday.

The twice Grand Slam champion will meet former finalist Simona Halep on Thursday for a place in Saturday’s final after producing her most complete performance at Melbourne Park this year on a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena.

In a match of grunting baseline pounders, Spaniard Muguruza broke the 30th seeded Russian twice in the second set and charged to the finish in a hailstorm of winners.

Pavlyuchenkova saved a match point with a thumping backhand but was powerless to deal with the second as Muguruza sealed the match with a deft drop-volley.

Simona Halep needed just 53 minutes to thrash Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-1, 6-1 to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday, a whirlwind victory that gives the fourth seed more time to go “shopping.”

The two-times Grand Slam champion had not lost a set in her previous two meetings with Kontaveit and the quarterfinal was no different, the 28th seed managing just one breakpoint on former world number one Halep’s serve.

The Romanian, runner-up at Melbourne Park in 2018, will meet Spaniard Garbine Muguruza for a place in Saturday’s final.

Halep said she would not watch the quarterfinal clash that followed her match and would instead relax and “enjoy the day.”

“I will chill, I will just do some shopping like every day because it motivates me,” the 28-year-old said. “Tomorrow I will think about the match, today nothing about tennis.”

After both players held serve to start the match, Halep simply took control, winning the next 10 games to take the first set and surge to a 5-0 lead in the second.

Kontaveit, playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, could do nothing to stop the Romanian but received a huge round of applause from the crowd when she held serve to make it 5-1.

It was merely a consolation, however, as Halep then converted her second match point with her fifth ace.

Halep, who was yet to lose a set in the tournament, said she was delighted with her game.

“It’s a pleasure to play here in Australia and I’m really happy that I can play my best tennis and go into the semifinals,” she added.

“I felt great today on court. I feel my game, I feel strong on my legs. I knew how to play against her. I was just focused on every point I played.”

Halep thanked her Australian coach Darren Cahill for making her a better player and said a strong off-season was the reason for her good form.

“I worked a little bit more in the off-season. First time in my life I did the off-season away from home so I could be focused on what I have to do every day, no days off,” she said.

“Meant a lot for me and this year I started very well. I am feeling much stronger than before.” — Reuters