In-form Bertens sets up Halep contest in Cincinnati

The Dutchwoman's list of recent big scalps will have to include the world number one if she is to win the Cincinnati Masters on Sunday.

In-form Bertens sets up Halep contest in Cincinnati
Rob Carr AFP

Simona Halep reached her third Cincinnati Masters final in four years after coming through a thrilling semi-final against Aryna Sabalenka.

The world number one has faltered at the last hurdle previously in this WTA Premier event, but she will have the opportunity to finally land the title against Kiki Bertens following a hard-fought 6-3 6-4 triumph over Sabalenka.

A series of thrilling early rallies saw breaks traded, but Halep, showing a resolute defence, emerged with the lead before a pair of double faults handed her the opening set.

Although Halep broke quickly in the second, too, Sabalenka continued to put the Romanian under pressure and cancelled out her advantage before pushing for a break of her own.

But a fine hold from the top seed forced Sabalenka to attempt to serve to stay in the match, failing as Halep came to the net and watched a desperate lob sail long over her head.

Halep will come up against an in-form Bertens after the world number 17 took the scalp of Petra Kvitova 3-6 6-4 6-2.

Kvitova, the eighth seed, impressed early on and looked on course for victory against an opponent who had been forced to play two matches and five sets 24 hours earlier.

But Bertens showed the same quality that proved too much for Elina Svitolina - and Kvitova herself last week at the Rogers Cup - and came roaring back, ultimately winning relatively comfortably.

"I'm feeling great. I'm really happy I won this match," she said on-court. "It was a really tough one, but I'm so happy to be in the finals here.

"We've put a lot of work in to get more fit, to play more aggressive on the hard courts, and it's working out."