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Halep vs Bertens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Halep reclaim the Madrid Open title and the no. 1 ranking?

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 11 May 2019
  • Simona Halep faces Kiki Bertens in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open
  • Halep vs Bertens is live from Madrid on Saturday at 6.30pm local/5.30pm BST
Simona Halep (PA Sport)

Simona Halep can reclaim the Mutua Madrid Open title and the world no. 1 ranking in one fell swoop – unless Kiki Bertens can find a way to stop her in Saturday’s final at the Caja Magica.

Two-time Mutua Madrid Open champion Simona Halep faces 2018 runner-up Kiki Bertens in the final of the 2019 edition of the Premier Mandatory tournament.

There’s a huge amount on the line for Halep: Should she win Saturday’s final, she will not just become the second woman after Petra Kvitova to win the Madrid title three times. She would also move up to second place on the all-time Premier Mandatory winners’ list behind Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, who are tied with six each, and claim her first title of 2019. Most importantly, she would become world no. 1 again on Monday, displacing Naomi Osaka after Osaka failed to win her quarterfinal against Belinda Bencic.

Simona Halep (PA Sport)
Under the circumstances, it’s remarkable how calm and composed Halep was, for the most part, during a gripping three-set battle with Bencic in Friday’s semifinals. Halep had lost both her last two matches against Bencic, including a three-set defeat at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February – but this was clay, and it was clear from the beginning that as well as Bencic was playing (and she did play well), that made it a whole new ball game. 

‘All the time when I come to the clay court season, there is an extra motivation and I feel better,’ the reigning French Open champion said.

The Romanian made a flawless start, breaking Bencic to love to lead 2-0. But the Swiss has been playing such brilliant tennis recently, with a perfect 5-0 record against top-five players coming into this match, and she took advantage as Halep over-pressed to be broken back to 2-2. 

Halep responded by going up a gear, winning the next 11 points to break to love, hold to love and lead 0-30 on Bencic’s serve before breaking again with a forehand winner down the line. After closing out the set 6-2, Halep won a fifth game in a row to break Bencic at the start of the second but Bencic stepped up the aggression and started serving better to break back. Bencic actually lead 3-1 but a double fault – she was conscious, as was Halep, of how any second serve was going to be ruthlessly punished – saw Halep get back on serve. After Halep saved a set point at 5-6 with a running forehand winner, a shot she hit magnificently throughout, the set went to a tie-break and Bencic took an early break when her backhand down the line forced a defensive error from Halep. The Swiss player pressed her advantage brilliantly to level up 2-6, 7-6(2).

In the decider, however, Halep’s efficient wins earlier in the week – she hadn’t dropped a set in her first four matches in Madrid, and had won three of the eight sets she’s played to love – paid off as Bencic started to fade physically down the stretch, put under greater pressure by Halep’s tactical reset to the aggressive court positioning which had seen her take the first set. The Romanian seized a big win, 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-0.

‘I think I was rushing a lot in the tie-break, the first point, and when I saw it was 4- 0, I lost confidence a little bit,’ Halep said afterwards. ‘But then I just repeated to my head that the match is starting now, so I have just to focus on the last set, not thinking anymore about the second set.

‘Also, I analyzed a little bit what I did wrong in the second set, and I was sure that I have been too far back from the court, and [Bencic] had a better chance to open the court and to dominate the game. So then I just said that I have to push her back a little bit more and to stay closer to the baseline, which helped me a lot.’

Unlike Halep, Kiki Bertens has yet to drop a set in Madrid this year and should she win the title, would become the first player to do so without losing a set. 

Bertens had been a French Open finalist but it was her run to the Madrid Open final in 2018 that really alerted people to how good the Dutch player can be as she defeated multiple quality players before losing to Petra Kvitova in three sets. Bertens went on to establish herself as a dangerous player on all surfaces with a Wimbledon quarterfinal run and titles in Seoul and Cincinnati – saving a match point n the final against Halep at the latter.

Kiki Bertens (PA Sport)
Besides picking up her third hard-court title in St Petersburg, Bertens had had a quiet 2019 before the return to clay, where she failed to defend her Charleston title but made the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, beating Bencic and Angelique Kerber. In Madrid, she’s been stellar, winning eight of the ten sets she’s played by a 6-3, 6-2 or 6-1 scoreline, and this against opponents of the calibre of 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, Anastasija Sevastova and defending champion Kvitova.

The last-named was a huge win for Bertens, who defeated Kvitova 6-2, 6-3 in a late match on Thursday night, and the after-effects of that match were fairly clear as she faced Sloane Stephens in the semifinals on Friday. I thought Stephens played a poor, sluggish first set and Bertens was in some senses lucky to get away with four double faults and a first-serve percentage of 47%; Stephens competed much better in the second, but was poor when it came to converting break points. The match itself wasn’t too physical or long – 90 minutes – but it was reported by the WTA’s Courtney Nguyen that Bertens had told her coach Raemon Sluiter that she was in pain, and the Dutch player’s reaction when she closed out the 6-2, 7-5 victory was to immediately dissolve into tears, which tells you a lot about her state of mind.

‘I love it here,’ Bertens said after the match. ‘I love the circumstances. I love the clay. I love the altitude. So, I think it's helping me a lot for my game.’

Who has the advantage heading into the final? I’m going to have to say it’s with Halep. The Romanian leads the head-to-head 3-2, although Bertens won their last encounter in Cincinnati last August; and while it’s 1-1 on clay, Bertens’s win was all the way back in 2012, while Halep beat Bertens in Rome in 2017. The conditions in Madrid on a purely technical level do favour the big-hitting Bertens, but Halep has always played some of her best tennis at the tournament into which she was granted a wildcard in 2013 that she always says turned her career around.

If Halep can play with the same aggressive court-positioning and mind-set she displayed against Bencic, keep Bertens from dictating the play and make it a physical battle, all signs point to a third Madrid Open title – and a return to world no. 1 for the woman who’s played like she’s the best in the world this week.

Halep vs Bertens Mutua Madrid Open tennis is live from Madrid on Saturday at 6.30pm local/5.30pm BST

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Halep vs Bertens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Halep reclaim the Madrid Open title and the no. 1 ranking?

Simona Halep vs Kiki Bertens live streaming, preview and predictions for the Mutua Madrid Open final on Saturday 11 May: Bertens hasn’t dropped a set in Madrid but two-time champion Halep looks on world-beating form

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