World number one Simona Halep crushed seven time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in straight sets on Thursday at the WTA Montreal event just hours after a delivering a marathon three-hour victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Top seed Halep took no prisoners against Williams, blitzing the 38-year-old American 6-2, 6-2 in just 71 minutes to reach the quarter-finals.
Halep’s match against Pavlyuchenkova was originally scheduled for Wednesday night but heavy rains forced organizers to postpone it until Thursday morning.
The Romanian needed three gruelling sets to oust the world No. 28 Russian but had a much easier time against veteran Williams who has yet to win a title in 2018.
Williams has struggled with her form this year and hasn’t won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2008 when she beat sister Serena in the final.
“It’s never easy to play either of the Williams sisters, and even though she was struggling, I knew I had to be focused on every ball, and stay focused until the end,” Halep said.
“She wasn’t feeling great on the court and it definitely wasn’t her best day. And I’m happy to be the quarter-finals now.”
The reigning French Open champion started quickly, winning the first two games en route to taking the opening set.
She also jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set and after a slight lull in the middle she rebounded to run away with the final four games.
Halep won 77 percent of her first serve points and broke Williams’ serve five times.
Halep next faces number six seed Caroline Garcia, who overwhelmed former World No.1 Maria Sharapova hours earlier.
Halep and Garcia met in the quarter-finals of this event last year when it was held in Toronto with Halep coming out the winner 6-4, 6-2.
Halep leads Garcia in their career head-to-head 4-1 as Garcia’s only career win over Halep was a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory in the final of the WTA Beijing tournament in October.
Williams also has to play twice in one day after Wednesday’s rain-lashed programme.
The veteran 13th-seeded American moved into a clash against Halep with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 victory against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.
Williams won despite committing 30 unforced errors and seven double faults.
Aryna Sabalenka staged one of the biggest wins of her career, saving three match points en route to a 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) upset of second seed Caroline Wozniacki.
The 20-year-old saved three match points at 3-5 in the third set – winning a backhand rally on the first, acing Wozniacki on the second, and crushing a winner that was set up by a big serve on the third.
Three match points
“I didn’t win any of the match points,” Wozniacki said. “I had an opportunity. I didn’t get it.”
US Open champion Sloane Stephens reached the quarter-finals with a rollercoaster 6-2, 7-5 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
Third seed Stephens, building up to the start of the defence of her maiden Grand Slam title in New York later this month, squandered three match points at 5-1 in the second set.
That setback allowed Suarez Navarro to battle back to 5-5 before the American steadied herself to claim a third win in three meetings against the Spaniard after 90 minutes on court.
Stephens hit 34 winners to the qualifier’s 13 and goes on to face Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia who beat German 10th seed Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-6 (7/2).
Australian 15th seed Ashleigh Barty also made the quarter-finals by seeing off Alize Cornet of France 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Cornet had knocked out Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the second round on Wednesday.
Britain’s Johanna Konta saw off two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 6-1, to move into the third round in a tie held over from Wednesday due to rain.
Konta returned to the court later Thursday and beat fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4 for a place in the last-eight.
Simona Halep (ROM x1) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-6 (11/9), 4-6, 7-5
Venus Williams (USA x13) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 7-6 (7/4), 6-4
Johanna Konta (GBR) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 6-3, 6-1
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x2) 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x15) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 7-6 (7/3), 6-4
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) bt Julia Goerges (GER x10) 6-3, 7-6 (7/2)
Sloane Stephens (USA x3) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 6-2, 7-5
Simona Halep (ROU x1) bt Venus Williams (USA x13) 6-2, 6-2
Caroline Garcia (FRA x6) bt Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-2
Kiki Bertens (NED) bt Petra Kvitova (CZE x8) 6-3, 6-2
Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) bt Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-3, 6-4
Elise Mertens (BEL x14) bt Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 2-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-0