DUBAI: Angelique Kerber hammered out a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Ana Konjuh on Thursday to stay in contention for a return to the top WTA ranking at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Germany's double Grand Slam winner from 2016 can take back the top spot from Serena Williams through a title at the Aviation club on Saturday.
The 29-year-old will first have to get by Elina Svitolina, on course for her own breakthrough into a first-time top 10 ranking if she can win the event.
The Ukrainian reached the final four with a 6-0, 6-4 defeat of Lauren Davis. Kerber has used Dubai as a building block to repair her modest early season form.
"I'm really happy about the match today again,” said Kerber. “Ana is a tough opponent, she's going for it. You have to play until the last point. It was nice to get through in two sets. I was just focusing on myself and trying to take the rhythm from the last days.”
She continued: "The match with Svitolina will be another tough one. I have to be aggressive and just like the last days here. I'll just try to enjoy the next match and of course I will try to go out there and to win another match here."
Svitolina, seeded seventh and winner of a fifth career title this month in Taipei, was pleased to advance.
"I'm really happy the way I started and the way I finished the match, I was being very aggressive and it worked really good," said Svitolina. "I was calm and positive today. I'm really happy with the performance. I was expecting she would do something different after losing 0-6 - it's always tough. I was expecting her to come back to the game.
Svitolina added she wanted to stay positive. “I was trying to stick to my plan and stay really positive. I knew that there would be some up-and-downs, but I tried to do more, more effort from my side so I didn't lose my focus too much."
Tenth seed Caroline Wozniacki produced an identical scoreline to Kerber as she put out teenaged Californian Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-2 to end the 17-year-old's run of form which had produced a third-round upset of fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Latvian Anastasija Sevastova ended the week's last Chinese hope, defeating Wang Qiang 6-4, 7-5 as the Asian lost her first sets of the week.