Weary from a silver medal run at the Rio Olympics and with the No. 1 ranking in sight for the first time, Angelique Kerber dug deep on Friday to defeat No. 9-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in Cincinnati.
“I think it helps that I am really trying to staying positive and not thinking too much about the first set and about the weather,” Kerber said. “Because it was really hot when the sun came out, and I was just trying to tell myself to go for it when you have the chance and try to change a little bit your game and not running for every ball. When you have the chance, make the rally a little bit shorter. So that was actually in my mind.”
Kerber with the title in Cincinnati this weekend would supplant Serena Williams at No. 1 on the WTA rankings, ending a 183-week reign on top for the American.
The German in the Saturday semifinals will have her fitness tested by No. 3 seed Simona Halep, who in the final night match on Friday defeated No. 5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-1 winning 13 of the last 15 games.
“I tried to kick it up to her backhand and use spins,” said Halep, noting that Radwanska was at her best when she had pace to work with.
Halep leads Kerber 4-2 winning all four of their hardcourt meetings. The two played at Wimbledon with Kerber winning then again in the Canadian semifinals last month won by Halep.
“I have to slow down my emotions, because with her you feel that you can go for the balls, like to be aggressive, but it’s not that easy,” Halep said of facing Kerber.
“So I have to be patient. I have to play my game like I did today. I think it’s pretty similar with the match, today’s match. I have to fight. I know that I can win. I have this confidence. I know that she’s a great player. I have nothing to lose. I’m going just to do my job and to try to win.”
Halep has won her last 13 matches and won her last two events.
No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza and No. 15 Karolina Pliskova lined up a Saturday semifinal with wins on Friday. Muguruza tamed Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos 6-4, 6-3, while Pliskova outlasted and upset No. 7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
“It wasn’t easy today, she played some good tennis and me as well, I was happy with how I played, especially in these conditions — it’s pretty hot today,” said Pliskova, who is still also alive in the doubles. “In the first set I tried to play aggressive and not give her time to dictate the game. My serve wasn’t that good today in the first two sets, but in the third it improved a lot.”
The ace leader Pliskova has bested Muguruza in two of their three career meetings.
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