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By David Goodman
LONDON, July 2 Romania's Simona Halep continued her impressive season with a businesslike dismantling of Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon on Wednesday to set up what should be an enthralling semi-final against surprise package Eugenie Bouchard.
Halep, the beaten finalist at last month's French Open, has climbed to third in the rankings this year by virtue of career-best results at consecutive grand slams and was in no mood to ease up as she overcame 19th seed Lisicki 6-4 6-0.
Having reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January and gone agonisingly close at Roland Garros, Halep is starting to gain belief that grand slam glory is not beyond her.
"I'm improving a lot in my game day to day," she said before admitting that she still finds it hard to think she can win a grand slam title.
"Doesn't matter if I was very close in the French Open. Here is another tournament and I just want to be focused every match, she said. "... (but) now I feel more prepared - that I can win a title - than in the French Open. So maybe it will happen here."
For Lisicki, meanwhile, the result ends her hopes of erasing the memory of her tearful defeat by the now-retired Marion Bartoli in last year's final.
The 24-year-old German's determination was immediately apparent when she went on the attack to race into a 4-1 lead.
Showing no signs of the shoulder injury suffered in her previous match on Tuesday, the 24-year-old pinned back Halep with some big serves and ferocious passing shots.
But 22-year-old Halep did not panic and showed her mettle to level at 4-4.
Lisicki, apparently sensing that she had missed a golden opportunity, grew increasingly twitchy as the third seed began to assert herself and Halep rattled off the next two games to take the first set.
The writing was on the wall for the German as early as the opening game of the second set, when she double-faulted and failed to put away a simple volley. Halep broke serve and proceeded to give Lisicki the runaround in the next five games to secure victory.
Lisicki said that she could do little to counter Halep once the Romanian had withstood the early onslaught.
"When the momentum goes one way and a player like Simona gets the confidence, then she goes even more for the lines," the German said.
"She was hitting the corners of the court, so it was getting more and more difficult to turn it around. I tried everything that I could today, but she was better."
Halep will certainly have to be at her best in Thursday's semi-final against Bouchard, the 20-year-old 13th seed who has done nothing but enhance her burgeoning reputation en route to becoming the first Canadian to reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon.
She booked her place in the last four with a 6-3 6-4 victory over German ninth seed Angelique Kerber.
(Editing by Clare Lovell and Martyn Herman)