By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati
- Simona Halep  def. Johanna Konta  6-4 7-6(1)
- Positives to take for Konta ahead of the US Open
CINCINNATI, USA – Simona Halep edged British No, 1 Johanna Konta in a tight match, to earn a semi-final berth at the Western & Southern Open.
Simona Halep  def. Johanna Konta  6-4 7-6(1)
In what is fast becoming quite the rivalry, Johanna Konta once more stood between Simona Halep and a shot at the World No. 1 spot. In Wimbledon, the Brit denied Halep, to reach her first Wimbledon semi-final, but it was not to be this time around. The early exchanges were hard-hitting and nervy as Konta struck first with a break early, but Halep gathered herself to break straight back, breaking her once more to take the advantage, as Konta seemed more drawn to the net than the other side of the court.
It was certainly not that Konta was playing badly – she had break points on Halep’s serve in every game of the first set. She managed to halt the run of games against her after four games on the bounce, going on to save a set point to get things back on serve. Halep failing to close out the set on the first try saw the Romanian bring Darren Cahill down for some reassurance. It worked, as she broke to love to take the opening set.
Konta opened the second set with a break but Halep was really punishing the usually reliable Konta second serve, hitting back with a break straight back. As the errors started to creep up for Konta, Halep gained with confidence all the time, jumping out to a 3-1 lead.
Coming out serving to stay in the set, Konta went for some brave shots giving Halep a couple of moments of pause, to stay in the match. Halep had controlled the match with pace and drive, bringing up two match points. Konta went after both with nothing to lose, – and it is worth remembering it was a similar point in Miami that Konta came back to beat Halep, in the way to the final.
With Halep pushing the rallies, Konta really stepped up her own pace, matching Halep for mileage around the court, as she broke Halep to get things back on serve once more. Halep looked dejected, shaking her head as she walked back to her chair. Cahill returned – maybe to help Halep look for her missing first serve. From 5-2 down, the Brit was very much back in contention, at 5-5.
Halep somehow clawed herself back from the brink to force Konta to serve once more to stay in the set. Challenge set? Challenge accepted as Konta found some breath-taking shots to force a tie-break. After all that effort though, Halep quickly leapt out to a 3-0 lead in the tie-break. It would have taken a monumental comeback to redress the balance. A tired looking double-fault handed the No. 2 seed match point. Halep battered a forehand winner to seal a place in her third straight semi-final at Cincinnati.
There were still a lot of positives to take away, as Konta explained in her post-match press-conference:
“I think I did a lot of good things today. Unfortunately I think it was mixed together with not-so-good things. I think against someone like Simona, it’s also quite a fine line of getting it just right. She’s the kind of player that if you don’t take advantage of the balls enough, if you don’t impose yourself enough, she’s in her comfort zone and she’ll build her points. That’s what she’s good at, building her points and moving you around.
“But then, on the other end, which I think happened to me a little bit today, I overplayed a bit. I was playing the right way; just a bit too much of it. I just couldn’t find the right balance. But again, that’s why she is as good as she is. She does force you. She does ask that question of you every time we’ve played.”
Halep, who felt she had advanced to this point without having played her best tennis was understandably a lot happier with today’s result given some of the tough matchups she and Konta had had in the past.
“Today I played the best match so far this tournament. I could hit the ball. I could move well. So I feel the rhythm. It’s back. So I’m positive again. I’m on it again. So I feel good, and I feel thankful with the way I played tonight.
“I knew she could stay there. She’s very strong. I said that if I feel my legs, I’m stronger. So I have just to be there and to push her back and to hit the balls. So I had in my mind just everywhere I am on the court, I have to hit the ball. So I hit the ball, and I think she didn’t expect that, because before, I just pushed some balls when I was in defensive. So just today I tried to change that.”
The semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open take place on Saturday with play starting at 12pm (5pm BST).
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