Serena Williams moved to a 17-0 record on the WTA Tour this season, edging out a persistent Simona Halep in their Miami Open semi-final on Thursday.
Seven-time and defending champion Williams is one victory away from a third consecutive Miami title, after seeing off third seed Halep 6-2 4-6 7-5 in two hours, eight minutes.
Standing in top seed Williams’ way of an eighth title is Carla Suarez Navarro, who will play her first WTA Premier final on Saturday – aiming to add to her lone career singles title.
The 33-year-old Williams, meanwhile, is into her 10th decider in Miami alone – and her 84th final overall – chasing a 66th title.
Williams did not have it her own way as she remained unbeaten in 2015, as Halep fought back from 5-2 down in the third set – only to falter late.
The world number one dominated the first set, winning 16 of 20 points on serve and breaking Halep twice – but the Romanian’s response was fitting of her standing as number three in the world.
Halep created the only break-point chances of the second set, and converted them in the ninth game.
After squaring the match at one-set all, Halep let slip her momentum as Williams careered to a 3-0, one-break lead early in the decider.
Halep still had her chance to fight back into the match, with a break point in the fifth game – but facing a Williams second serve, the Romanian put her backhand return wide.
Given another chance to break, Halep was more forthcoming in the 10th game – earning two break points when she returned a drop shot with the same treatment to force a Williams error, and the American put a backhand wide to put the deciding set back on serve.
Halep held her nerve to square it at 5-5, and Williams’ emotions were there for all to see – the world number one screaming at herself, and letting crowd noise frustrate her.
Granted, even chair umpire Kader Nouni had to implore the crowd to remain quiet during points, such was the atmosphere.
Williams managed to steady herself emotionally, and broke Halep to love in the 12th game to continue her flawless season.