Kiki Bertens became the first player from the Netherlands – man or woman – to win the Cincinnati title and she did it the hard way, saving match point en route to a 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory over world No. 1 Simona Halep on Sunday.
Playing her first-ever hard-court final, the 26-year-old Bertens snapped Halep’s nine-match winning streak and denied the Romanian the opportunity to become the first woman since 1973 to pull off the Canada-Cincinnati double.
Bertens, who will rise to a career-high No. 13 on Monday, posted an astounding 10th victory over a top-10 player this season and her first against Halep since 2012.
It was Halep’s third defeat in a Cincinnati final having lost to Garbine Muguruza here last year and to Serena Williams in 2015.
Bertens is having a stunning 2018 after contemplating retirement at the end of last season because she wasn’t finding the joy on the tennis court. But she has transformed herself from a clay-court specialist to an all-round player this year, winning Charleston and Cincinnati, finishing as runner-up in Madrid and making the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Halep broke in the opening game of the match then went up a double-break to lead 5-2. She took a one-set lead in 30 minutes.
The top seed fell behind 1-4 in the second set but drew level and forced a tiebreak. It looked like it might all be over when Halep got a championship point in the breaker but big hitting from Bertens saw her survive and she grabbed the second set to take the final into a decider.
Halep double-faulted in the first game of the third set to face two break points. She saved the first with an aggressive forehand that clipped the sideline and the second slipped away from Bertens on a poorly-executed drop shot. But the Dutchwoman created another opportunity and got the break moments later.
Darren Cahill, Halep’s coach, tried to encourage her during an on-court coaching visit but the world No. 1 cut a somber figure, admitting she had her chance to close out the match earlier and blew it.
— WTA (@WTA) August 19, 2018
Halep broke back immediately but Bertens struck once again and she was soon up a double-break, serving at 4-1. Halep got her hands on two break points the next game after hitting a ‘tweener’ on a Bertens lob. But the Dutchwoman stood her ground and wrapped up the victory shortly after.
“It’s the third time I’m in the same position, I lost three finals here but hopefully I’ll win the next one,” said Halep during her on-court speech.
“Kiki you played amazing, you really deserve this title.”
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