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Halep vs Keys tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Halep to make Cincinnati quarterfinals for seventh straight year

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 14 Aug 2019
  • Simona Halep faces Madison Keys in the third round of the Western & Southern Open
  • Halep vs Keys is live from Cincinnati on Thursday
Simona Halep (PA Sports)

Simona Halep and Madison Keys face off for the first time in three years with a place in the Cincinnati quarterfinals on the line.

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Simona Halep faces Madison Keys in the third round of the Western & Southern Open on Thursday.

Halep has a very good 22-8 record in Cincinnati, where she has never won the title but has reached the final three times – in 2015 (losing to Serena Williams), 2017 (losing to Garbine Muguruza) and 2018 (losing to Kiki Bertens) – as well as reaching the quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014 and the semifinals in 2016.

Halep was made to work hard by Alexandrova (PA Sports)
In other words, the Romanian hasn’t failed to reach the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals since 2012, but she received a stern early test from Ekaterina Alexandrova on Wednesday. Alexandrova has played some good tennis in 2019 to reach her current, career-high ranking of world no. 43 and impressed last week in Toronto when she reached the round of 16 as a qualifier before losing to Serena Williams in tight straight sets, while Halep came into Cincinnati under a bit of an injury cloud after having retired in the Rogers Cup quarterfinals trailing Marie Bouzkova 4-6. Still, I’m not sure anyone was expecting Alexandrova to play quite as well as she did. The Russian put in a really inspired performance, hitting bushels of winners off both wings and cracking a flat ball to devastating effect, staving off four break points at 1-2 in the first set before breaking to lead 3-2 with a flawless returning game. 

Halep saved a break point to stay in touch but could not prevent herself being broken a second time to trail 3-6, and Alexandrova broke to open the second set, too. Halep clawed back from 0-2 to get back on level terms, saving a break point in the process, but she was often doubled over between points, and by the time Alexandrova held to lead 4-3, the Romanian had converted just one of seven break-point opportunities. 

But the Wimbledon champion showed how confident she is as she produced a fantastic hold when serving to stay in the match at 4-5, ultimately winning the last three games of the second set to level up. Alexandrova did not go away; when Halep took the initial break of serve in the decider, she cracked another flurry of winners to break back. At the crucial moments, though, it was Halep who once again lifted her game, striking out on the forehand to close out the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

‘I got the confidence game by game, even if she was leading me,’ Halep said afterwards. 

‘She kept the rhythm and the level of her game very high today the whole match. So I needed something extra to finish it to be well,’ Halep added.

‘I knew that she's gonna play really, really well, and she did. But I didn't give up, and I'm very pleased with that.’

Halep will face a very different opponent in the third round, albeit also one who has, like Alexandrova, the weapons to really take it to her. 

Madison Keys (PA Sports)
We haven’t heard much from Keys in 2019, with the American seemingly not getting any more consistent as she gets older. A top-10 player in 2017, the year she made her first and so far only Grand Slam final at the US Open, Keys made two Grand Slam semifinals in 2018 but didn’t win a title at any level and ended the year at world no. 17. 

So far in 2019, Keys’s ranking hasn’t suffered too badly – she’s world no. 18 right now – but her performances have been extraordinarily patchy: With a 17-11 win-loss record this year, 15 of those 17 victories have come at just three events. First, the Australian Open, where she made the round of 16; secondly, the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, where she played beautifully to win the title on green clay; and thirdly, the French Open, where she made the quarterfinals (although she faced only one player ranked inside the top 50 on her way, world no. 42 Katerina Siniakova). 

Aside from those three tournaments, victories have been few and far between for Keys, who has lost six matches this year to players ranked outside the top 50, and recently lost to world no. 283 Hailey Baptiste at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Keys also lost to Donna Vekic last week in Toronto so came into Cincinnati, where she was a quarterfinalist last year, looking for her first victories of the US summer hard-court swing. She was tested by former champion Garbine Muguruza in the first round, but prevailed 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-4, and went on to beat the slumping Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-1 in a match which was primarily decided by Keys’s winners and unforced errors (she hit 32 of the former and 30 of the latter, while Kasatkina only managed one winner for 23 unforced errors).

Those stats are not promising for Keys when it comes to facing Halep, who defends as well if not better than Kasatkina but will not make anywhere near as many mistakes. Nor does their head-to-head bode well: Keys won their first encounter in Sydney in 2014, but Halep has won all five of their subsequent clashes, dropping just the one set, although they have not met since the 2016 WTA Finals. Only one of these two players has improved since then. Unless Halep’s injury from Toronto is bothering her, she should be reaching the quarterfinals in fairly short order on Thursday.

Halep vs Keys tennis is live from Cincinnati on Thursday

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Halep vs Keys tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Halep to make Cincinnati quarterfinals for seventh straight year

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