Halep beats Bencic to reach fourth Madrid Open final

Novak Djokovic lifts his arms to the sky

Naomi Osaka is not too anxious for the French Open, despite admitting she was distracted by "too many things" in her 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 Madrid Open quarter-final loss to Belinda Bencic on Thursday.

Bencic, who opened the door for Halep to possibly return to the top of the world ranking with her quarter-final defeat of current number one Naomi Osaka, took a tight second set in a tiebreaker. But Halep was playing near flawless tennis, a wonderful combination of big, accurate strikes from the baseline and fast, nimble defence as Bencic tried to replicate her opponent's depth and width through long rallies. Bertens lost to Kvitova in last year's final. The match finished 6-2, 6-7, 6-0 and Halep will face either eighth seed Sloane Stephens or the seventh seed Kiki Bertens in the final.

Bertens of the Netherlands and Romania's Halep will clash in Saturday's WTA Madrid Open final.

The serve of the Japanese deserted her and she double-faulted to hand Bencic a 4-2 advantage.

Bencic was under immediate pressure to start the second set, facing three break points in her opening service game, but Osaka was unable to convert on any of her chances, which would prove to be critical.

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Bertens also had four aces, while Halep had none. "She deserved to win the match, definitely", she said. Stephens had no trouble getting past Petra Martic in her last-eight encounter.

"I am sorry to announce that I must withdraw from today's match". It's not about joining Kvitova as a three-time victor in Madrid. Halep returned the favor on Bertens' second service game to pull even at 2-2. But they had never played on clay.

The 37-year-old, still eyeing a first title since becoming a mother in 2017, took only an hour and 16 minutes to get past the Swede in her first match in two months, having withdrawn from the Miami Open due to a left knee injury.

Halep battled back to 4-3 but looked beaten when a series of gutsy retrievals saw Bertens fluff her smash, only for the ball to smack Halep full on the thigh, three feet behind the baseline.

Bertens missed out again but earned a third championship point when Halep narrowly missed the baseline and she finally seized her ninth WTA title when the world number two hit a backhand out.

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