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INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Serena Williams took one step closer to a capping a remarkable return to Indian Wells after defeating Timea Bacsinszky 7-5 6-3 on Wednesday to move into the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open.
Williams is playing in Indian Wells following a 14-year boycott of the event where she alleged she had suffered racist abuse from fans.
While Williams has said her appearance here has been a victory in itself, a third career tournament triumph would be special for the world number one.
"I'm just happy to still be here playing in front of you guys," Williams said during her on-court interview, after finishing with 23 winners and seven aces. "I'm just happy to be here."
Williams extended her winning streak to 15 matches and will next face Romania's world number three Simona Halep, who is the last player to have beaten her at the season-ending WTA Championships in Singapore last October.
Halep turned up the aggression and rallied for a 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro to claim the first women's semi-finals berth.
The Romanian overcame a blistering start by 12th seed Suarez Navarro at Indian Wells to move a step closer to what would be her biggest tournament title.
Suarez Navarro could do no wrong in the opening stages of the match, sweeping the first four games to go up 4-0. But Halep clawed back to 4-4, and then 5-5, before the Spaniard regrouped and unleashed a huge forehand winner to claim the first set.
From then on, Halep dominated.
"She was opening the court pretty well with the angles, and it's really tough to play and hit the balls from wide in the court, so I knew I had to start playing more aggressively and hit more into the court," Halep said.
"I just tried to relax my body and my mind, fight for every point and play my best."
Halep finished the match in style, blasting a big ace.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York and Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury