Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kerber and Pliskova advance to Cincinnati final

Photo by Frank Oplanic
World number 2 Angelique Kerber, playing in yet another rain-delayed match at the Western & Southern Open, prevailed in straight sets this afternoon over Simona Halep, breaking Halep's 13-match win streak. The Rogers Cup champion, playing to shouts of "Si-mo-na!" from her very enthusiastic fans, played an error-strewn match that included eight breaks of serve, as the two line-loving players went at each other from the baseline.

Halep said afterwards that she just wasn't feeling the ball, and even in her practice session, she felt a need to change rackets on three different occasions. It "wasn't my day," the Romanian star said, and added, "I'm not going to make it a drama, this match...." Halep said she plans to get some sleep between now and traveling to New York for the U.S. Open.

Kerber, who defeated Halep 6-3, 6-4, said that she has tried to relax as much as possible this week, eating out in good restaurants, paying attention to hydration and "trying to make everything easy and not too complicated."

If the German star wins the final tomorrow against Karolina Pliskova, she will be number 1 in the world. She has, of course, been asked about this all week, and has repeatedly said that she has put herself under no particular pressure regarding this possibility.

Kerber talked about the significant improvement in her game over the past couple of seasons. She described three areas in which she has made strides: an increased level of physical fitness, learning to focus on every point, and being more relaxed on the court.

Kerber also had praise for Halep. "...she's never giving up any ball. Doesn't matter what's the score. It it's 3-0 or 4-0 or she's up and down, she's going for it." Halep defeated Kerber in Montreal recently on her way to the title.

About her next opponent, 17th seed Karolina Pliskova, Kerber said, "I played a lot against her and it was always close and tough battles. For me, there are no favorites. It's fifty-fifty always when you go out there."

In an highly unusual scenario, the number 1 doubles ranking is also on the line. The two components of the recently split Santina--Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis--will play against each other in the Cincinnati final. Mirza, playing with Barbora Strycova (who gave Kerber a very tough match during the singles competition) will face off against her former partner and CoCo Vandeweghe. Hingis and Vandeweghe have played only one match in Cincinnati: They had a bye in the first round, and received walkovers in the second round and the quarterfinals.

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