MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Garbine Muguruza prevailed 7-6(8) 7-5 in a battle of attrition against world number three Simona Halep to reach her first Australian Open final on Thursday.

The unseeded Spaniard arrived at Melbourne Park with low expectations but will now face American 14th seed Sofia Kenin bidding to win her third major title after emerging from a period in the Grand Slam wilderness.

With the temperature nudging a scorching 40 degrees Celsius (104F) at Rod Laver Arena, Muguruza was dragged into a see-sawing scrap by Halep, a former finalist at Melbourne Park.

The Spaniard had to break back from 5-4 down in the second set and then held firm to claim the win on a second match point when Romanian Halep failed to clear the net on an attempted passing shot.

The 26-year-old Muguruza would not have been on many lists of pre-tournament contenders but the class and fighting spirit that propelled her to the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon titles has come flooding back in Australia.

“You start day by day, that’s what I was doing,” she said.

“Very excited to be in the final, it’s a long way to go. I have one more match on Saturday.

“I wasn’t thinking I was down. I was thinking, ‘keep going and at some point you’re going to have your opportunity’.

“I know I was facing Simona so it was going to be a hard match. So I was just hanging in there and fighting with all the energy I had.”

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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