Halep tops Bencic to fight for Madrid Open title

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic in action during her semi final match against Romania's Simona Halep at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 10 May 2019. EPA-EFE/CHEMA MOYA

MADRID.– Romanian tennis player Simona Halep on Friday overpowered Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-0 in one hour and 57 minutes to secure a place in the Madrid Open final for the fourth time and be a win away from regaining the WTA ranking’s top spot.

Halep, a two time Madrid Open champion in 2016 and 2017 at the expense of Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic respectively, will play either Sloane Stephens of the United States or Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in Saturday’s final.

The defeat of the top-seed Naomi Osaka to Bencic in the previous round opened the door for Halep to regain the top spot of the WTA rankings should the Romanian win the tournament.

Halep spent a total of 64 weeks at the top of the rankings in two spells and conceded the top spot to Osaka on Jan. 28, when the Japanese player clinched the Australian Open title, her second consecutive Grand Slam trophy.

The Romanian player, who withdrew from the Stuttgart Open due to a hip issue after playing a Fed Cup tie against France, seemed to have benefited from the one-week rest.

She has dropped only one set on her way to the final, putting on a good performance that enabled her to beat Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-0, 6-0 after the latter stunned Julia Gorges of Germany, seeded No. 16 and Spaniard Carla Suarez in the opening rounds respectively.

Bencic, meanwhile, was hoping to repeat her comeback, having also lost the opening set against Osaka, and she managed to draw level at one set apiece against Halep thanks to a dazzling performance from the baseline.

However, the big effort she put during the second set came at a price she had to pay in the decider as she did not manage to get into the scoreboard.

Therefore, Halep posted her first win over the Swiss player since the third round of the 2014 Wimbledon, when the Romanian won 6-4, 6-1 and moved on in the tournament till she lost in the semifinal to Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.

After this clash, Bencic defeated Halep in the 2019 Dubai Tennis Championships quarterfinals and went on to clinch the title, and in the 2015 Rogers Cup final, when the Romanian had to withdraw while training 3-0 in the third set.

Over the 11th editions of the women’s singles tournament, no player has managed to win the title without dropping a set.

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