By Ros Satar, in Madrid

  • Simona Halep [6] v Dominika Cibulkova – H2H: Cibulkova leads 3-1
  • Dominika Cibulkova def. Louisa Chirico [Q} 6-1 6-1
  • Simona Halep [6] def. Sam Stosur 6-2 6-0

MADRID, SPAIN – 2014 finalist Simona Halep closes in on the Mutua Madrid open title where she will face Dominika Cibulkova.

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As the heaven’s opened outside, the floodgates opened for Cibulkova as she roared past qualifier Chirico, pegging the American to just two games on the board as she moved into her semi-final.

The birthday girl was on point from the start of the game as she ripped through the first set, albeit allowing the qualifier to edge onto the scoreboard and at least avoid another ‘double-bagel’ score-line as meted out by Petra Kvitova when Chirico made the main draw in Stuttgart.

Still it was a comprehensive dismantling and showed the kind of aggression, pace, movement and tenacity that took the Slovakian to the final of the Australian Open and into the Top 10.

Missing four months of the 2015 season has dumped her back down the rankings but her run to the final will put her back on the Top 30 and with that the chance of a Roland Garros seeding.

She said: “We watched a little bit of her videos last time and I saw some of her results that, you know, we realized that we had some tactic to play against her.

“But today I was playing really aggressive. I did not let her play her game so she couldn’t do much with the forehand. I was really strong, solid on the backhand. I was the first one going for the forehand and make her run.

“So that was the most important. My serve was working really well today and I was just on my forehand all over the court.”

She will face Halep who delivered as comprehensive a beat-down on a fellow former Roland Garros finalist as you ill ever see. After splitting the first four games, Halep simply put the pedal to the metal while almost every aspect of Stosur’s game seemed to desert her.

Halep looked a study of controlled aggression whereas Stosur’s racquet looked like it had been bewitched as her second serve in particular broke down spectacularly (and the first serve was not really covering itself in much glory either).

An earlier joke between me and the reporter from Digisport Romania resulted in a jokey exchange in her quarter-final press conference, where Halep offered to pay for beers. As she walked in to the press conference, she presented the waiting press with the promised bottles – asking us to have the beers before asking the questions!

She said about the match: “[It] looked like perfect game. I felt really well. In the morning actually I was a little bit sore from all the week. Then I warmed up and I felt really well. I knew how she plays. I played many times against her. Her game fits very well on my game. Today with the roof as well was a good thing for me. I needed few games to get the rhythm and to get the feeling, and then was easier for me to return her balls.

“The balls have like a lot of topspin, and it’s really tough to hit it over the shoulder. So I tried everything to get the rhythm, and then was much easier.”

The final presents a fascinating battle in prospect. The Slovakian leads Halep 3-1 but their only fight on clay (four years ago) went to Halep who came from a 0-6 slapping down to win the match.

Obviously a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then – both have made it to Slam finals, both have been Top 10 players, and both are determined scramblers with aggressive play and if they both bring their A-Game this should be far less one-sided than their two semi-finals.

Moreover – it means a lot to both of them given injury woes and struggles since making that often elusive Slam breakthrough. Above all else, a win here helps with the momentum ahead of the French Open.

Halep continued: “I expect a tough one as well because is the final, and always the last match of the tournament is difficult. But I have experience. I feel ready to play. She plays fast. She hits the balls. So, yeah, I know her pretty well. I beat her; she beat me. It’s open match. Everyone can win. But I will do everything to win it.

“I really want it. It’s my dream to win here. It’s special. Was I think my first biggest final two years ago, so it’s special tournament for me. And also because it’s clay. So everything together.”

Both have hit great form, but perhaps Halep has had the easier ride, dropping just one set in the quarter-final whereas Cibulkova reversed her three set trend in the semi-final and in all but two of her matches, she had to come from a set down to clinch the victory.

We suspect that Halep just may be the sharper on the day but will have to fight for the win.

Prediction: Halep in three sets.

 

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