By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati

  • Simona Halep [1] v Kiki Bertens
  • Halep leads H2H 3-1

CINCINNATI, USA – Simona Halep bids for the Canada/Cincinnati double, but standing in her way is Kiki Bertens contesting her first hard-court final at the Western & Southern Open.

 

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Simona Halep [1] v Kiki Bertens | Halep leads H2H 3-1

World No. 1 Simona Halep may have arrived here in Cincinnati very tired, but she will be relishing a chance to set right the drubbing she received at the hands of Garbiñe Muguruza when she faces Kiki Bertens in the final.

 

Halep’s Path to the Final

Simona Halep in the second round of the Wetern & Southern Open, WTA Cincinnati 2018

Simona Halep in the second round of the Wetern & Southern Open, WTA Cincinnati 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

  • R1: BYE
  • R2: Ajla Tomljanovic [Q] 4-6 6-3 6-3
  • R3: Ashleigh Barty [16] 7-5 6-4
  • QF: Lesia Tsurenko 6-4 6-1
  • SF: Aryna Sabalenka 6-3 6-4

From the start of her campaign here, Halep found herself under the pump as qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic stole a march on the World No. 1 in her opener. Since then though she looked a lot more solid and assured as she powered her way into a second straight Cincinnati final, and her third overall.

Her ability to run down every ball frustrated Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-final who was angry at herself, she told reporters, as she waited for errors from Halep that never came.

Halep said, of the semi-final: “She’s a very powerful opponent. You have just to adjust yourself there on court. She’s hitting the ball very strong. The serve was huge. It was a really tough one.

“But I stayed there. I stayed focused. I tried to stop missing and just to push her back. I tried to return, and I think I did it pretty well today. I feel happy that I could go through this one.”

No-one has done the back to back since the 1970s and in a year that has seen Halep both wear the mantle of World No. 1 very well, together with landing that elusive maiden Slam, this looks like just the challenge she could relish.

“Canada was very humid. So here, as well. I felt actually the same. Rain delays, same. I think the schedule was same. So I didn’t feel like big change when I came here. Now I feel like, you know, if you play match by match and every day you have a match, you don’t have time to think about anything else.

“So I just went with this rhythm, and I feel confident. I feel like my game is working well. So is a chance tomorrow to win it, for sure, but is gonna be a tough run. So I’m not thinking about the result at all.”

 

Bertens’ Path to the Final

Kiki Bertens in the semi-final of the Western & Southern Open, WTA Cincinnati 2018

Kiki Bertens in the semi-final of the Western & Southern Open, WTA Cincinnati 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

  • R1: Coco Vandeweghe 6-2 6-0
  • R2: Caroline Wozniacki [2] 6-4 RET
  • R3: Anett Kontaveit 6-3 2-6 6-3
  • QF: Elina Svitolina [5] 6-4 6-3
  • SF: Petra Kvitova [8] 3-6 6-4 6-2

In just this tournament alone, Bertens has sent three Top 5 women packing, and has reached her third singles final of the year after Charleston, which she won and Madrid, where she finished runner up to Petra Kvitova. Perhaps better known as a clay courter, with all her tour level titles to date coming on that surface, her improvement on grass saw her enjoy her best results to date at SW19 by reaching the quarter-final.

“Maybe a little bit of a surprise, yes, because I never did really well on the hard courts. So this year, like, going — or in the grass, as well, so being in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, that really gave me a boost, like, Okay, I can really do this.

“Yeah, also with Raemon [Sluiter], when we flew to the States, it was, like, Yeah, maybe you can just play a final in one of these weeks. I was, like, Yeah, sure. But I was not really believing it.

“I’m just playing good tennis. I would not say I’m playing, like, the best I ever did, but it’s just feeling well. It’s working well. Yeah, I feel good with it.”

 

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Final preview

No matter how tired Halep says she is feeling, it certainly looks like she has got her second wind. She has a confident looking head to head, losing to Bertens back in 2012 on the tour on clay, with Halep beating her on grass in 2016 and clay in 2017. The Romanian will look to make it the full set on the hard-courts in 2018.

It should not really come as a surprise that Bertens had the capability of reaching these heights. She has already risen to a career high of No. 15 just by reaching the final and jump a couple of places more with the win.

She has good variety in her shots, good court coverage and is solid at the net, so can be relied upon to make Halep work hard in the final. Halep has gained more and more confidence in her movement here, and will determinedly chase everything down so it is unlikely we will see such a one sided match in any aspect on Sunday.

Experience might prove to be a factor – there is a little bit of history on the line with the chance to capture the double while Bertens has nothing to lose  this time last year the pressure was on Halep to claim the No. 1 title, but a year on she has nothing to chase in that regard.

It will be a test, and the impact on both of them as they are both scheduled to also play in New Haven next week ahead of the US Open.

Prediction: Halep in three sets.

The Women’s Final at the Western & Southern Open takes place at 2pm (7pm BST).

 

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