No.8 seed Petra Kvitova won a shakespearian contest to become the first player through to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Open as she defeated 7-5 5-7 6-3 No.15 seed Elise Mertens in 2 hours and 43 minutes. She claimed the 15th Top 20 win of the season to remain undefeated in her six quarterfinals in 2018: every time she has reached the last 8, she has gone on to win the title. In her second semifinal in Cincinnati, Kvitova will meet Kiki Bertens bidding to extend her 2-1 record in their head to head. Bertens confirmed she could not be reduced to a clay court specialist anymore as she dismissed  6-4 6-3 Elina Svitolina.

In the other seminal Simona Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka. The world No.1 claimed a 6-4 6-1 win over Lesia Tsurenko, the Belarusian No.1 saved all the 10 breakpoint chances conceded before sealing a 6-3 6-4 win over Madison Keys and clinch the first Premier-5 semifinal of her career.

Kvitova passed through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, went leading 5-0 in the opening set but suffered the opponent’s comeback. Mertens won five straight games and missed a break point for 6-5 but Kvitova saved and then won a tough final game.

An uncharacteristic streak of forehands long and double faults made Kvitova dig deep to find rhythm and range against the heavy-legged Belgian. In the second set of a match full of game-streaks, Mertens had a chance to serve out the second set at 5-4 but threw in two double-faults to get broken at love. This time the Belgian avoided the comeback and sealed the set 7-5.

Bidding for her fourth top 10 career win, Mertens repeatedly called her coach Dietmar Kindlmann, the former hitting partner who worked three years with Maria Sharapova. “For 15 minutes, everything in it. This is amazing. You’re fighting like a warrior. But you have to bring the energy up because she’s now active. And have some fun!” she said in his last on-court intervention.

Kvitova moved from 0-2 to 4-2 thanks to her superior fitness, although Mertens broke back completing a gutsy game as the Czech hit her 11th double fault of the match on  break point. In the end, she took arms against a sea of troubles and ended them extending her record to 16-3 in three-setters this year.

Bertens came into the North American summer having never notched a Top 10 win on hardcourt. She became the most feared giant-killer these weeks as she has now beaten No.9 Pliskova, No.8 Kvitova, No.2 Wozniacki (via retirement) and No.6 Svitolina to claim her first Premier hardcourt semifinal. 

From 1-4 down, Simona Halep wins 11 of the last 12 games to defeat Lesia Tsurenko 64 61 and advance to the seventh semifinal of the season. Making seventh main draw appearance at Cincinnati (eighth overall), Halep gained a berth in her fourth semifinal here, where she is a two-time finalist in 2015 (l. S.Williams in F) and 2017 (l. Muguruza in the second shortest title-match in the tournament’s history), and added a semifinals showing in 2016 (l. eventual runner-up Kerber).

World No.1 Simona Halep of Romania came back from a 1-4, 0-40 deficit in the first set to dominate the remainder of the match and become the 61st top seed in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open (the all time record stands at 47-13).

Halep, now 17-1 since winning the Roland Garros title, will face Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus who destroyed the hopes of No.13 seed Madison Keys and the almost all-American crowd completing a break in each set. More solid off the forehand side, the Belarusian showed massive groundstrokes and more effective returns from the deuce side while Keys struggled to counter her pressure with her usual flashy forehands. 

Making her Cincinnati main draw debut this week, projected to climb into the top 30 for the first time in her career, Sabalenka now has 27 WTA main draw wins to her name in 2018. Beating Keys, who spent nearly two hourls less than her on court, she reached the third semifinal of the season out of six quarterfinals played.


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