World number one Simona Halep swept into the final of Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati with a 6-3 6-4 win over Aryna Sabalenka.
The top seed, who last week secured her second Rogers Cup title, won in straight sets in one hour and 15 minutes as she raced to an early break and 2-1 lead.
Sabalenka kept her opponent working to break straight back, but then immediately dropped serve to see Halep move 3-2 ahead, with the Romanian breaking once again in the final game to take the opening set.
Belarus’ Sabalenka, who overcame three top 10 players on her way to the semi-final, was unable to find the form she displayed against Madison Keys in the quarter-final, and Halep claimed an early 3-1 lead in the second set.
Sabalenka again broke straight back and managed to level at 4-4, but Halep dug deep to take the match on her second match point.
The two-time Cincinnati finalist will now face Kiki Bertens, who earlier beat Petra Kvitova 3-6 6-4 6-2 to reach her third final of the season.
The world number 17 fought back from a set down after losing the last five games of the first set, but overcame a break-laden second set to level the match.
From there, she dropped just three points on serve in the third, clinching the match in just under two hours.
Johanna Konta found her form in spectacular style to hand Serena Williams the heaviest defeat of her illustrious career.
The 23-time grand slam singles champion won only one game in a match for the first time, with Konta reeling off 12 in a row to triumph 6-1 6-0 in the opening round of the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.
It has been a tough season for Konta, who has dropped to 48th in the world rankings following her second-round loss at Wimbledon to Dominika Cibulkova.
But this was the British number one at her best, taking advantage of a below-par performance from Williams, particularly on serve, with a ruthless display that lasted just 51 minutes.
This was Williams’ first match since her Wimbledon final loss to Angelique Kerber and, after holding serve in the first game, things rapidly went downhill.
The 36-year-old landed only 40 per cent of her first serves, served seven double faults and won just 10 points in the second set, where Konta was completely dominant. She will go on to play another American, Sofia Kenin, in the next round.
Speaking on court after the win, Konta, who is the first British player to beat Williams, said: “It’s an absolute privilege for me to be on the same court as her.
“She obviously wasn’t playing anywhere near her best level but I was just trying to play the match on my terms and do what I can out here and put aside the incredible champion she is and play the player on the day.
“I had to stay very much on every single point because against her it can turn around at any point.”
Williams, who has climbed back to 26th in the rankings, was playing just her fifth tournament since giving birth to daughter Olympia last September.
She said on wtatennis.com: “I think she played well in the second set. I wasn’t sharp at all in the first set, and she got more confident from there. She clearly ran away with it.
“I know I can play a zillion times better, but I have so many things on my mind, I don’t have time to be shocked about a loss that clearly wasn’t when I was at my best. I can only try to be there and fight, which is what I was doing out there. I moved a lot better, too, so I’ll take the positives where I can.”
The 23-time grand slam champion suffered early exits at Indian Wells and Miami in her only two competitive outings this year following a 14-month lay-off to give birth to daughter Alexis Olympia.
Williams has not been seen on the WTA Tour since losing to Naomi Osaka in the first round in Miami and has decided she needs more preparation time to compete on clay.
Organiser Manolo Santana said on the tournament’s official website: “We regret the absence of Serena.
“She is one of the great champions of our sport, she has always offered a show to the tournament and we hope to see her again at the Caja Magica in the future.”