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Cincinnati Saturday: SF Showdown

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Angelique Kerber is gunning for the No.1 ranking in Cincinnati, but the German isn’t the only one with designs on the Western and Southern Open title. Chris Oddo previews Saturday’s semifinals right here at

Saturday, Semifinals

Center Court
[4] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP #3) vs. [15] Karolina Pliskova (CZE #17)
Pliskova leads, 2-1

Key Stat: Pliskova leads all players in the ace category in 2016 with 394 through her first three rounds in Cincinnati.
Karolina Pliskova had the upper hand on Garbiñe Muguruza when they met head-to-head in 2015, defeating her in Dubai and then again a month later at Indian Wells, but it is Muguruza who has proven to be more comfortable on the big stage since the pair last met. The Spaniard is a Grand Slam winner and a Top 5 player now, while Pliskova has still to reach the second week of a major. But don’t be fooled by the Czech’s lack of Slam success. The 24-year-old is progressing steadily and it’s just a matter of time before she has her day in the sun. Will it be Saturday? Pliskova will need to serve effectively to win for the third consecutive time against Muguruza, and she knows she’ll have to make more first serves than she did on Friday in her quarterfinal win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. She only managed a 44% first-serve percentage in her three-set win over the Russian, but was pleased to earn her second Top 10 win of the year nonetheless. “I can serve big in the important moments which is good, but I have to get high with the percentage,” Pliskova said. “Still happy with the serve. I think it’s still winning the matches for me, so still the biggest weapon.” Speaking of weapons, the powerful Muguruza is not lacking in that department. She knows she’ll have to use her full arsenal to change her fortunes against the dangerous Pliskova. “She’s playing well,” Muguruza said on Friday after defeating Timea Babos in the quarterfinals. “I think this surface helps her a little bit with her style of game.” Muguruza has been focused and in the zone all week, and it has shown on the scoreboard. She’ll take a confident air with her on the court and let the chips fall where they may. “I’m satisfied the way I’m fighting and my spirit and energy on the court, so hopefully I can keep this until the US Open,” she said.

Pick: Muguruza in two

[2] Angelique Kerber (GER #2) vs. [3] Simona Halep (ROU #4)
Halep leads, 4-2

Key Stat: Kerber could ascend to the No. 1 ranking for the first time with the title in Cincinnati.
Two steps from a career-changing milestone, Angelique Kerber continues to wear the blinders and deflect all pressure about climbing to the top of the WTA rankings. “I’m not feeling more pressure, to be honest,” she said after coming back from a set down to defeat Carla Suárez Navarro in the sweltering Cincinnati heat on Friday. “I learned a lot from last tournaments and last matches about pressure, and when I put the pressure too much on myself, I mean, that’s not the way I would like to play my tennis.” Though Kerber struggled early against the Spaniard, she drew upon a reservoir of confidence and found her second wind to win on Friday. It’s been a recurring theme for the German, and as the wins pile up, the confidence grows. “I knew I’m really fit and I worked a lot in the last few months and years to go out and try to play matches like that,” she said. “Of course when you win the matches you have much more confidence and you can do it and turn around matches and go for three sets after you lose the first one. That gives me for sure more confidence also for the next challenges.” The challenge will be a big one on Saturday, as Kerber will square off with the scorching-hot Simona Halep. The Romanian notched her 13th consecutive win on Friday night, taking down Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets, and she is playing her best tennis of the season at the moment. Like Kerber, Halep fell behind early but stormed to the finish, taking 13 of the final 15 games from Radwanska. Will Halep be able to continue her run and rain on Kerber’s parade in Cincinnati, or will the German edge ever closer to a colossal milestone?

Pick: Halep in three

By the numbers…
– Number of singles semifinalists still alive in the doubles draw (Pliskova and partner Julia Goerges face Martina Hingis and CoCo Vandeweghe).
20-2 – Halep’s record since the start of Roland Garros this year.
46 – Kerber’s 2016 win total – more than any other player on tour.
183 – Number of consecutive weeks that Serena Williams has held the No. 1 ranking, which is second-most all time behind Graf (186).

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Halep Too Strong For Radwanska

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Simona Halep recovered from a slow start to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska in Friday evening’s rain-affected quarterfinal of the Western & Southern Open.

Watch live action from Cincinnati this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

The latest intervention from the Cincinnati weather pushed the start of the match back by almost one hour, and when they did make it on court Halep appeared to have left her best tennis in the changing room. Radwanska could barely believe her luck as a string of errors enabled her to spring into a 4-0 lead.

But as the contest wore on Halep quickly began to resemble the player that has so impressed for much of this summer, outplaying the WTA’s master craftswoman to complete a 7-5, 6-1 victory.

“You have to change the rhythm. I didn’t hit as strong as I did first four games and I didn’t miss as I did at the beginning,” Halep said. “She was playing really well at the beginning, those four games, but then I had just to change, to play more angles, and then I came back and I think I was the one that was dominating match.”

Halep has now won 13 straight matches on tour, and her confidence was clear for all to see under the lights of the Lindner Family Tennis Center. By the end of the first set she was even coming out on top in the games of tactical cat and mouse, drawing Radwanska into the net then spearing a winning passing shot to edge 6-5 ahead. She continued to impress both tactically and mentally the following game, recovering from 0-30 down to earn a set point, completing the turnaround with the type of cerebral touch her opponent would have been proud of.

This appeared to break the Pole’s will, Halep reeling off the final five games of the match to extend an unbeaten sequence stretching back to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. On that day it was Angelique Kerber that toppled the Romanian and the pair – who also locked horns in Montréal – will resume their rivalry in Saturday’s semifinals.

According to Halep, the outcome of the contest will hinge on the mental side of her game as much as the physical: “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.

“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.”

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Kerber Closes In On No.1 Ranking

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Angelique Kerber fought back to defeat Carla Suárez Navarro at the Western & Southern Open and move within touching distance of claiming the No.1 ranking.

Watch live action from Cincinnati this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

By winning the title in Cincinnati, Kerber will end Serena Williams’ 183-week reign as World No.1, and she kept the dream alive with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory on Friday aftrnoon.

Earlier this summer Suárez Navarro edged Kerber in a high-quality encounter in Birmingham. While the rematch failed to scale these heights, for a set and a half it looked like the result would go the same way.

The chase for top spot has now seen Kerber play 21 matches since the start of June, and at times against Suárez Navarro she appeared to be running on empty. Her usual consistency from the back of the court conspicuous by its absence, the No.2 seed committed 17 unforced errors in dropping the opening set.

Fortunately for the German, the soaring temperatures and a leg injury caused her opponent to fall away spectacularly, struggling in vain to keep fatigue at bay. The turning point came midway through the second set, a scrappy game giving Kerber a 4-2 and some much-needed momentum.

Willing herself forward, she hung onto this lead, swinging a serve out wide and beyond Suárez Navarro’s reach to level the match. This positivity continued into the decider, a brilliant angled backhand bringing an immediate break as she hurtled towards a semifinal meeting with either Simona Halep.

“I think I changed a little bit my game in the second set: I was trying to go for it when I have the chance and to making the rallies a little bit shorter,” Kerber said. “I was still thinking that I can turn around the match even after losing the first set and going down a break early in the next set.”

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Insider Podcast: Chasing Angie In Cincy

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Ahead of the quarterfinal matches at the Western & Southern Open, WTA Insider caught up with two of the most in-form players through the Emirates Airlines US Open Series.

Simona Halep takes a 12-match winning streak into a last eight clash with Angieszka Radwanska, whom she trails 3-4 in their head-to-head, but has otherwise played spectacular tennis all summer with wins in Bucharest and the Rogers Cup, reaching the quarterfinals in Cincinnati without dropping a set.

“I’m playing smart and aggressive,” Halep said after her win over Daria Gavrilova. “I feel much stronger and more confident on court when I play now. I’ve won a few matches in a row, so it gives me confidence. It’s been building since Indian Wells, but I’m feeling great on court.”

Up next is World No.2 Angelique Kerber, who is three matches from ending Serena Williams’ 183 straight weeks atop the WTA rankings. Kerber battled past Barbora Strycova in two tough sets to renew her rivalry with Carla Suárez Navarro.

“I go out on court with a lot of confidence that I can be ready even in different conditions, or if I only have a few days to prepare,” Kerber said. “This is what I took into the two matches I won here, that I’m a player who can transfer to surface and conditions very quickly. This gives me a lot of confidence.”

Hear more from Halep in Kerber in the latest Daily Dispatch:

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or on any podcast app of your choice to ensure you never miss an episode when they go live. Reviews are always helpful, so if you like what you’ve heard so far, leave us one. You can also get new episode alerts by following us on Twitter @WTA_Insider.

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Kvitova Visits WTA Media TV Truck

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Petra Kvitova paid a visit to the WTA Media TV truck to learn about everything that goes into producing a tennis match. Ride along right here at

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Pliskova First Into Cincinnati SFs

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Karolina Pliskova secured the first spot in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open with a three-set win over No.7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova on Friday afternoon.

Watch live action from Cincinnati this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

Breaks at either end of the final set propelled Pliskova to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory and a meeting with Garbiñe Muguruza.

A typically heavy-duty forehand brought Pliskova an early break, and despite surrendering this advantage immediately she struck twice more to confidently close out the set.

However, on a balmy day, the Czech suffered an understandable dip at the start of the second set, flicking a forehand into the net to fall an early break behind. Kuznetsova made the most of her opponent’s charity, holding on to this slender advantage to force a decider.

Any suggestion that Pliskova, who is also still alive in the doubles draw, would wilt physically in the decider was given short shrift. With the winners flowing from her racquet, she gave Kuznetsova the runaround to advance into her fifth semifinal of the season.

“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,” Pliskova said. “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.”

This week has ushered in a timely return to form for Pliskova ahead of the US Open. Although she is wisely refusing to look too far ahead.

“Any semifinal is great because you have the chance to get to the final, so I’ll just do my best to prepare for the next match – I have doubles so wish me luck!”

Muguruza secured her place thanks to a comfortable win over qualifier Timea Babos. Since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, Muguruza has struggled for consistency but impressed against the big-serving Babos, breaking three times to complete a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

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