A year after losing to Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens returned to Madrid final where Saturday she will face Simona Halep who is also a win from the No. 1 ranking.
Bertens hung on the beat Sloane Stephens in her semifinal 6-2, 7-5. Bertens jumped out early in the first, but Stephens held an early lead in the second before Bertens leveled and eventually took the match.
“I love it here,” Bertens said. “I love the circumstances. I love the clay. I love the altitude. So, I think it’s helping me a lot for my game.”
“[Stephens] can hit a lot of balls back and still hit unbelievable shots,” she added. “So you always have to be ready for that turnaround. And I think it was good today that I broke her straight back when she broke me and that I was still able to fight for the second set.”
Bertens, who hasn’t dropped a set this week, seeks her 9th career title in her 11th final.
Halep earlier finally lost a set but took the last six games from Belinda Bencic with a 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-0 win.
“It is normal at this level, I expect tough matches all the time,” Halep said. “I was lucky that during the week I had short matches. But always when I step on the court I’m ready for a three-hour match, so I’m okay.”
Bencic had beaten Halep in Dubai.
“I found Simona was playing better than me the whole match,” Bencic assessed. “But overall, I’m pretty happy how I fought. I found that I defended pretty good. It was opposite today, I was mostly the defense, and Simona was the aggressive one, so I think that makes the difference as well.”
Halep will be bidding for her third Madrid title and 19th overall. Plus a win returns her to the No. 1 ranking.
“All the time when I come to the clay court season, there is an extra motivation and I feel better,” Halep said.
Halep and Bertens have split four tour meetings with the Dutchwoman taking the 2018 Cincinnati final.
“It is going to be a really tough battle, I would say,” Bertens stated. “We have had great battles in the past. She loves clay. She loves to play here as well. She won it already twice. I love it also here. So I think it is just going to be a great battle and yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
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