Simona Halep can now become World No.1 if she wins Madrid this week after Naomi Osaka lost in the quarter-finals of the event. She will need to beat Belinda Bencic and one of Sloane Stephens or Kiki Bertens to do so, a very achievable feat.
Watch the Halep vs Bencic Madrid Live Stream here.
It was Bencic who did the honours for Halep, winning an epic clash in three sets against Osaka. She won the last four games of the match to complete a 3-6 6-2 7-5 comeback victory, the second time she has beaten Osaka this year. Bencic was a junior French Open champion but has not quite lived up to that on the main tour so far. “I think I’m getting more comfortable. It helped that I started to get some matches in because for three years I didn’t play on this surface, so it’s definitely different. ” she said on her improvement on the surface. “Now I feel comfortable. I don’t think about my movement. It comes more automatically.”
Halep picked up another straight sets win to advance, although this one over Ashleigh Barty was much tougher than her previous match against Viktoria Kuzmova. The Aussie fought well to keep up with Halep or much of both sets, fighting from a break down before faltering at 5-5 on each occasion in the 7-5 7-5 win. The Romanian is yet to drop a set this week and has to be seen as the favourite with just four women left in the tournament. “”It was very difficult and every point was important, I tried to stay calm during the points because sometimes I force and I miss, but with [Barty] you have to keep the ball on court and try to mix also like she does.” Halep said afterwards.
“I think [Halep is] a very solid player, a great player. She’s been on the top for very long time now and the clay specialist. So, it will be for sure a tough match. I have reached more again than I imagined in this tournament and, in that case, I will just play very freely and very brave and hope to play a good match tomorrow.” said Bencic. It has been a delight to see the Swiss youngster back at the top of the tour and it seems like a matter of time before she is back in the top 10.
Prediction – Simona Halep in three sets