Kiki Bertens faced a match point in the second-set tiebreak against Simona Halep in the Western & Southern Open final, but after saving it with a courageous forehand, the Dutch forced the third set and dominated it for a 2-6 7-6(6) 6-2 victory. Halep has unsuccessfully played the Cincinnati final three times, losing to Serena Williams in 2015, to Garbine Muguruza in 2017, and now to the unseeded Bertens, who today scored her first triumph over a top-ranked player.
The top-seeded Halep cruised through the first set 6-2 in just 30 minutes, but her first service game in the second set was already dramatic, as she saved three break points to hold. The 26-year-old Bertens used her next chance to break Halep and earned a 3-1 lead, consolidating it for 4-1.
After a chat with her coach Darren Cahill, who advised her to settle down, start the ball high to the backhand and then get up to the baseline, Romania’s Halep got back in the game and leveled to 4-4. In the tenth game of the second set, Halep saved a set point to hold, 5-5, and after two more holds we had a seesaw tiebreak in which Halep had a match point to complete the Canada-Cincinnati double, but Bertens’ powerful forehand kept the Dutch alive in the encounter and she forced the deciding set by winning the tiebreak 8-6.
The world No.17 Bertens opened the third set with a break and even though she dropped her serve in the second game, she got back on track, winning four consecutive games to establish a 5-1 lead. Serving for the victory at 5-2, Bertens celebrated on her first match point.
Despite the loss in the final, Halep’s deep run in Cincinnati, that came right after her Rogers Cup triumph, has solidified her WTA ranking this week, as she’s guaranteed to stay at No.1 until the end of the US Open.