Simona Halep of Romania returns a shot to Sloane Stephens of the US during their Western and Southern Open semi-final match, at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, on August 19, 2017
Simona Halep has her third chance of the season to claim the world number one ranking after beating Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-1 Saturday to reach the WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters finals.
The second-ranked Romanian tries to become the 24th different woman atop the list by winning Sunday’s final against Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, who ousted top-ranked Czech defending champion Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-2.
“If it’s going to happen, great, but if not I will have more opportunities. Hopefully I can do it. I have the desire,” Halep said. “I am so close. I really want that.”
Australia’s 23rd-ranked Nick Kyrgios and Bulgaria’s 11th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the men’s final, where Sunday’s winner will claim his first ATP Masters crown.
Kyrgios eliminated Spain’s David Ferrer 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) while Dimitrov dispatched 19th-ranked American John Isner 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (12/10).
Garbine Muguruza of Spain celebrates after defeating Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic in their Western and Southern Open semi-final match, at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, on August 19, 2017
“I’m obviously excited but it’s just another tennis match for me,” Kyrgios said. “I’m going to go out there and compete and whatever happens happens.”
Dimitrov won his only meeting with Kyrgios in the second round at Indian Wells in 2015.
Halep, who hasn’t dropped a set all week, has already lost twice this year playing for the top ranking, falling in the French Open final against Jelena Ostapenko and the Wimbledon quarterfinal against Johanna Konta, each time after taking the first set.
“Maybe tomorrow is my turn,” Halep said.
“I have to give my best and fight and if I win it’s going to be really special. It’s a great opportunity. But for sure it’s going to be a tough match against a Grand Slam champion.
“It’s a big challenge. It’s a big match.”
Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria celebrates after defeating John Isner of the US to advance to the Western and Southern Open final, at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, on August 19, 2017
Halep says while she is confident her rise to the top will come, she wants to win it for herself.
“I know if I keep this level, it’s going to come. If not tomorrow, maybe next weeks,” she said. “I can keep hoping for that, but I don’t want to do that, actually. I want to win it… it’s going to be more special and nicer for me.
“My first goal was a Grand Slam title, and it’s still the first goal. But now being very close, it’s maybe the most important thing in this period.”
Serena Williams had been number one before her pregnancy break earlier this year. Germany’s Angelique Kerber and Pliskova have held the spot since.
– Kyrgios seeks fourth title –
Nick Kyrgios of Australia reacts to a shot during his Western and Southern Open semi-final match against David Ferrer of Spain, at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, on August 19, 2017
Kyrgios, 22, jumped ahead 4-1 in each tie-breaker, closing out the first set with a forehand winner and the last when Ferrer hit a backhand long.
“My record in tie-breakers is pretty good,” Kyrgios said. “I know if I serve well and play the right way, I’ve got a fair chance.”
The Aussie, who seeks his fourth career ATP title and first since last year in Tokyo, saved the only three break points he faced in the fifth game of the second set.
“In important moments, he served really good. Nick served amazing all the match,” Ferrer said.
Dimitrov, seeking his sixth career title and third of 2017, won a dramatic final tie-breaker on his fourth match point.
“Patience. That’s what it is,” Dimitrov said. “I knew where he was going to serve but I couldn’t do much on the ball. I just remained focused and used every opportunity.”
– ‘I figured out something’ –
Halep never faced a break point and cruised in 54 minutes, saying “I played my best match on hardcourts so far.”
Sixth-ranked Spaniard Muguruza, seeking her fifth career title, is 2-1 against Halep with two hardcourt wins but lost their most recent meeting in 2015 on Stuttgart clay.
Pliskova, last year’s US Open runner-up, had won six matches in a row over Muguruza since losing their first meeting at the 2013 French Open.
“I lost to her so many times, I figured out something was going wrong,” Muguruza said. “I worked hard on beating these kinds of opponents.”
Pliskova, who won twice Friday after a rain postponement, was drained, saying, “I just wasn’t there today at all.”