In her third Cincinnati final, Simona Halep will look to claim her first title in Ohio and in doing so complete the Montreal-Cincinnati double. Standing in her way is the redoubtable Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, who has been in some excellent form herself, with her fine play of late rewarded with a number of top ten wins. But she hasn’t ever won a Premier title, losing her only previous final earlier this year in Madrid. Who will come out on top?
Halep and Bertens have met four times in a head-to-head the Romanian leads three matches to one. Their rivalry began eight years ago on the hard courts at the ITF event in Torhout in Belgium in the quarterfinals where Halep won 7-6 6-2. Bertens had her revenge two years later in the semifinals in Morocco where she won 6-3 6-4. They met again in 2016 at Wimbledon in the third round and Halep won 6-4 6-3 before the Romanian won again in Madrid a year later, 7-5 6-1.
Path to the final
Halep began her tournament against Ajla Tomljanovic after a first-round bye. She made a slow start, but rallied impressively to advance a 4-6 6-3 6-3 winner. That set up a rematch with Ashleigh Barty who she had dismissed in the semifinals in Montreal, and though she was made to work harder in Ohio, she again ran out a straight sets winner, 7-5 6-4. She backed that up with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Lesia Tsurenko before stopping the in-form Aryna Sabalenka 6-3 6-4 in the semifinals.
Bertens, unseeded, opened her Cincinnati campaign with a 6-2 6-0 demolition of the struggling Coco Vandeweghe. That set up a clash with world #2 Caroline Wozniacki, but the Dane retired trailing by a set. Bertens then found herself in a battle with Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, but she prevailed 6-3 2-6 6-3. Bertens then recorded an impressive 6-4 6-3 win over fifth seed Elina Svitolina. Bertens then scored her second win over Petra Kvitova in as many weeks, beating the Czech 3-6 6-4 6-2.
How do they match up?
There should be a fair number of extended rallies in this one. Both Halep and Bertens are excellent movers and are capable of impressive consistency from the baseline. Halep’s defensive quality has been on display all week, perhaps never more so than in her semifinal victory over Sabalenka. Few hit a bigger ball than the Belarusian, but Halep was able to stand up to her power and force her into errors, which ultimately won the world #1 the match.
Bertens will present a rather different test. Though the Dutchwoman can inject a fair amount of power into her groundstrokes when she wishes to, she will not try to hit through Halep like Sabalenka did. Bertens will instead likely be more willing to bide her time and can soak up pressure just as Halep can. But, she does not cope well when denied time on the ball. If Halep can rush Bertens, she may well be rewarded with a sharp increase in the number of errors coming from the Bertens’ racquet.
Bertens has been playing perhaps the best tennis of her life in recent weeks and has the results to prove it. Her back-to-back top ten wins in the quarters and semis being particularly impressive. But as well as she has been playing, Halep has been playing better. She has lost just two matches since Rome, and won over twenty in that time, and has established herself as the clear #1. Expect her to further solidify that status by claiming her first Cincinnati title with victory in this one.