Friday’s Set Points, WTA Cincinnati: Halep vs. Sabalenka, Kvitova vs. Bertens set for the semi-finals

The weather threatened to wreak havoc with the schedule on Friday in Cincy. Thankfully the forecasts proved to be wrong and all the matches were completed with several players having to do double duty. Thanks to Omar Boraby for some great photos which are linked in this post. Stay tuned for a dedicated photos post later today! Read on for 12 stories in Friday’s Set Points for Cincy.

Cincy R3 matches

Seven straight wins for Halep

From a break down in both sets, Simona Halep did the Montreal-Cincy double over Ash Barty, winning 7-5 6-4. It was closer than their quarter-final in Montreal but ultimately Halep was just a bit more consistent, particularly in the key moments. I think both players weren’t 100% physically. Halep was bothered by her back in her last match against Tomljanovic and must have been exhausted, while Barty had her leg strapped and seemed to be suffering from a cold. Barty pulled out of doubles with CoCo Vandeweghe earlier in the week due to a viral illness. On a changeover chat with her coach, Craig Tizer, he asked her to breathe through her nose which she said she couldn’t do 😂.

I’ve noticed a lot of negativity from Barty in her chats with coach and she tends to list all the things that she isn’t happy about. Barty had a 5-4 lead in the first set. She didn’t put any pressure on Halep though as she missed a whole host of returns. Halep looked a little passive at times, perhaps tiredness. She saved a break point serving out the match and finished with a sweet winner into the corner.

I’m happy to see Barty get plenty of matches to set herself up for the US Open. She’s actually down to play New Haven next week, as is Halep!

Svitolina edges Anisimova

Elina Svitolina broke serve at 5-4 in both sets to record a straight sets win over Amanda Anismova, 6-4 6-4. Svitolina was totally dominant on serve and dropped just 11 points behind it all match! Anisimova couldn’t get involved in the return games. When she did chalk up a lone break point at 4-4 in the second set, Svitolina found two lines.

This was another decent display from Anisimova. She has adapted to playing on the WTA tour seamlessly. Just a little erratic at the ends of both sets where Svitolina was supremely solid. I’m going to keep sounding like a broken record…. AA is going to be a huge star.

Bertens beats Kontaveit

Kiki Bertens made it back-to-back quarter-finals in Montreal and Cincy with a 6-3 2-6 6-3 victory over Anett Kontaveit. Despite losing five straight points at *40-0 to get broken at *3-2, Bertens was much more effective behind her serve and got over that disappointment very quickly to win 12 of the last 16 points against an increasingly erratic, Kontaveit. I feel Bertens’s serve has become a thing?! It’s been a real weapon for her this year and she has transitioned very strongly from the clay to the grass and now to the hard court.

Cincy QF matches

Kvitova outlasts Mertens

In a wild quarter-final full of twists and turns, Petra Kvitova outlasted Elise Mertens, 7-5 5-7 6-3 in two hours and 42 minutes to reach her sixth semi-final of 2018. The first two sets both followed the same pattern – one player raced out into a big lead, got pegged back and then toughed out a lengthy game at 5-5 en route to winning the set.

From a break down in the decider, Kvitova increasingly landed big strikes on the forehand to overpower Mertens. Big respect to Mertens who was clearly struggling physically in the decider. The Belgian player has gone deep in San Jose, Montreal and now Cincy, and has had her forearm taped up for a while now. Mertens showed so much heart and spirit on court. She is an incredible competitor! The partnership with Dieter Kindlmann looks like it could be an inspired one. Each time he came on, she instantly took on board the advice.

Kvitova extends her three set record to 16-3 for the year. Prior to this week, when she has reached the quarter-finals of a tournament she has gone on to win the whole caboodle…

Kvitova in press

Petra 😂😂😂

Bertens’s 8th top 10 win of 2018

Kiki keeps on rolling… Kiki Bertens came from 1-4 down in the first set to beat Elina Svitolina, 6-4 6-3. Bertens has won eight of her last nine matches against top ten opposition. Most impressively, six of those eight wins have come away from the clay where she had exclusively had her best results on tour until this year.

Svitolina started the much more consistent, but again struggled with the depth on her groundstrokes allowing Bertens back in and to dictate. Svitolina’s coach, Andrew Bettles, suggested to hit more to the Bertens backhand. It still felt like Svitolina was going too much to the Bertens forehand at the end of the first set as Bertens found her rhythm.

Bertens is such a confidence player and it’s clear she is riding the wave right now. The improvement from previous years is staggering. Another crazy stat via the wonderful Tennis Abstract – this appears to be her first ever semi-final on hard court!

Eight straight wins for Halep

Simona Halep doubled up for the second week in a row, advancing to the semi-finals of Cincy. Halep won 11 of the last 12 games to beat Lesia Tsurenko, 6-4 6-1. Halep was broken to love serving for the match but broke for the win. This has been an exceptional effort from Halep after such an exhausting run in Montreal. Props to the world number one!

Sabalenka’s sensational week

In the final match of the day, Aryna Sabalenka continued her sensational week in Cincy with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Madison Keys. Not only was it the first straight sets match that Sabalenka has played since the Eastbourne final, it is the first time she has WON in straight sets since qualifying for the main draw in Madrid back in May!

Sabalenka saved all ten break points that she faced against Keys. Confidence is clearly sky high. Sabalenka’s week has seen her beat Johanna Konta, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia and Madison Keys. Sabalenka came from a set and a break down in her first match of the week against Konta, and saved match points against both Pliskova and Garcia. I’m delighted to see that Sabalenka has comfortably sealed her first ever seeding at a Slam for the US Open.

Other news

Cincy photos on Facebook

A complete album of Omar’s photos from a busy Friday in Cincy is up on the Moo’s Tennis Blog Facebook page.

New Haven draw

Unsurprisingly, the New Haven draw is lit based on the entry list. Considering their history at this tournament, Kvitova vs. Radwanska is the stand-out first round match for me.

Mihaela Buzarnescu

An update from Mihaela Buzarnescu – this would be a pleasant surprise?!

Saturday’s schedule

I’m away for the weekend so there is unlikely to be a new post until Sunday. I’m hoping to be back for the final! Who you got?

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