We’re down to the last two women in the Cincinnati Western & Southern Open. It was just a week ago that fans barely missed a matchup between the top two women in tennis at the Rogers Cup, but on Sunday fans will get their wish to see World No. 1 Serena Williams take on World No. 2 Simona Halep.
After Simona Halep trampled Jelena Jankovic in her semifinal straight set victory 6-1, 6-2 she retook the World No. 2 ranking on the WTA. She’s been at the top of her game in the last couple of weeks as she also just came off a runner-up finish at the Rogers Cup. Unfortunately, she had to retire to the eventual winner Belinda Bencic because of heat exhaustion and a hampered left leg injury, but she’s back and ready to take on the best player in the world.
There aren't many that stand a chance to defeat Williams, but there also aren't many who’ve had the pleasure of putting a 6-0, 6-2 beating on the World No. 1 like Halep did late last year. When you look at the head-to-head record between these two, Williams has the overwhelming lead at 5-1. Before Williams took her second loss of the year to Belinda Bencic last week at the Rogers Cup she appeared invincible, but what Bencic showed the WTA is there is a way to beat Williams and that’s just to keep up with her.
Surely this is much easier said than done, as there’s few that can handle the powerful groundstroke game Williams brings along with her commanding service game, but Halep has always shown great counter ability in this type of situation. Halep’s game feeds off of heavy hitting opponents. Few have the ability to take short back swings and consistently return equally powerful strokes, but it’s become a part of Halep’s game that’s enabled her to stand toe to toe with the hardest hitters in the game. She started the week slow with her first few rounds taking a full three sets, but since the quarters it’s been straight set victories for the young Romanian.
Fans shouldn’t be surprised to see that Williams is back and she’s playing with a chip on her shoulder after losing to Bencic in the semis at the Rogers Cup last week. She’s gotten used to winning and it’s obvious she wants at least one more title before she begins the last Grand Slam event of the year. Except for a three-set victory over Ana Ivanovic in the quarters, Williams has managed to cruise by all of her opponents to set the stage for her second consecutive title here in Cincinnati.
In the end, Williams will have to serve well in order to put Halep away quickly. Halep is known to come out of the gate strong and hurt her opponent early. It’s exactly what the Romanian has done in her close meetings with Williams. Halep should take chances when she can. Not doing so and waiting for Williams to make an error is a fool’s game that doesn’t bring results against the World No. 1. Sometimes even Williams can play too passively on important points leaving her opponent the chance to take over. Should that time come, Halep will need to take advantage and remember she has nothing to lose as she’s already claimed the World No. 2 ranking solidifying that she’ll be on the opposite end of the draw come US Open time.
Hopefully you caught our preview piece for the event and you took Williams as the predicted winner. If you did, the sports books are offering bettors a cheap price to hedge. If you didn’t we think the probability of the match going a full three sets is larger than Halep outright winning. Against tough opponents Williams has been making it a habit of starting out slow before she comes back to win in three sets. The stage has been set well for that exact situation to occur here.
How They Got Here
- First round: Bye
- Second round: def. Tsvetana Pironkova 7-5, 6-3
- Third round: def. Karin Knapp 6-0, 6-2
- Quarterfinals: def. Ana Ivanovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
- Semifinals: def. Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3
- First round: Bye
- Second round: def. Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 5-7, 6-4
- Third round: def. Andrea Petkovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
- Quarterfinals: def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
- Semifinals: def. Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-2
|Games Under 20.5||4/5|
|Games Over 20.5||10/11|
|Sets Under 2.5||2/5|
|Sets Over 2.5||7/4|