Halep Downs Stephens to Join Muguruza in Cincinnati Final

Simona Halep

Simona Halep moved one step closer to becoming World No.1 as she defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open.

The Romanian took advantage of a wayward Stephens to progress comfortably to the Cincinnati final where she will face Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

Earlier in the day, Muguruza made her way through to the final with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over a jaded defending champion, Karolina Pliskova.

If 25-year-old Halep earns her second career win over Muguruza then she will move to No.1 in the World for the first time in her career.
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Simona Halep cruises past Sloane Stephens

Halep dominated from the start, breaking in the third game of the match and then again in the fifth to stroll through the opening set.

Stephens, making her way back from a lengthy foot injury, looked jaded on the day and began to wilt in the Cincinnati sun. The aggressive play from Halep was relentless in the second set and she broke early once again.

From there, Halep strolled through, breaking Stephens twice more in quick succession to seal an impressive victory 6-2, 6-1.

The victory, her fourth in a row over the American, also means Halep returns to the Cincinnati final after losing to Serena Williams in 2015.
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Garbine Muguruza books her spot in the Cincinnati final

Garbine Muguruza had the odds stacked against her in her semi-final as she faced World No.1 Karolina Pliskova. The Czech player held a dominant 6-1 winning record against Muguruza but ran out of steam after having to play two matches on Friday.

Wimbledon champion Muguruza managed to avoid having to play two matches on Friday but still faced long three set matches against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Madison Keys in previous rounds.

Nevertheless, she looked by far the better play as the two kicked off play on semi-finals day in Cincinnati.

Muguruza made a statement of intent in the opening game of the match, breaking the Pliskova serve on her fourth attempt. Settling quickly into the match, her groundstrokes were dominant, not giving Pliskova a foothold in the first set.
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Serving to stay in the set at 3-5 Pliskova faltered again, allowing the Spaniard to break and seal the opening set 6-3.

Momentum looked to be swinging at the start of the second set as Pliskova finally earned herself some break points. Three came and went before Muguruza closed out the service came, ending the Pliskova resistence.

From there the Czech would not see another break point and Muguruza broke midway through the set. Pliskova fought hard to stay in the match, saving four match points on her serve. It was not enough though, as Muguruza broke on match point number five to seal her spot in the Western & Southern Open final for the first time.

The Cincinnati final between Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep will be played on Sunday August 20.

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