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Halep hovers closer to top ranking

Romanian reaches quarter-finals of Cincinnati Masters as rain keeps Nadal, Pliskova waiting

Image Credit: AP
Simona Halep of Romania serves to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia during the round of 16 at the Cincinnati Masters.
Gulf News

Cincinnati: Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova, the number one seeds at the WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters, never got a chance to break a sweat before play was halted on Thursday at the rain-hit tournament.

Czech defending champion Pliskova was leading Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 3-0 when play was suspended while former and future world No. 1 Nadal and compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas never started their third-round match before the downpour started.

Court conditions more suitable for Olympic swim star Michael Phelps than tennis stars had US 14th seed John Isner, who beat teen Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, happy he snuck in a win between storms.

“Very happy to be off the court,” he said. “We could have easily, if I didn’t break at 5-all, we could be 2-all in a tie-breaker right now, not finishing.”

Second-ranked Simona Halep of Romania charged closer to taking the world number one ranking from Pliskova by beating Latvian 15th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.

“I’m not playing my best tennis in this moment but I’m still winning,” Halep said. “I win against the 15th player in the world playing not like I want and I’m really happy about it.”

But five matches were pushed to Friday, when double duty could come for Nadal, the 15-time Grand Slam champion assured of returning to world number one next week.

Nadal was assured of advancing past injured Andy Murray for the top spot when Roger Federer withdrew from Cincinnati with a back injury.

The 31-year-old Spaniard could meet Australian Nick Kyrgios in Friday’s quarter-finals. Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic was leading Kyrgios 4-3 when their match was halted.

Nadal will be asked to play at 1 pm and again at 9 pm if he wins, as will the winner of the Karlovic-Kyrgios contest.

Eighth-ranked Austrian Dominic Thiem, the only other seed remaining in Nadal’s half of the draw, edged France’s Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3). He faces Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

Final tune-up for US Open

Halep, a French Open runner-up for the second time in June, can overtake Pliskova by winning the title in the final major tune-up for the US Open.

“To be number one in the world, I think, is a big thing,” Halep said. “If I deserve the place, for sure I will win it.”

Ukraine’s fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina, who won her fifth WTA title of the year last week in Toronto to reach a career-high fourth in the rankings, can also become number one on Monday if she wins the title.

But she must face Germany’s Julia Goerges in a postponed match, then play the winner of another postponed match between American Sloane Stephens and Russian Ekaterina Makarova in a Friday double on short rest.

British seventh seed Johanna Konta downed Slovakian 11th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-4, to move into the quarter-final path of Halep, who won her 15th career WTA title earlier this year at Madrid.

Also reaching the quarter-finals was Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. The sixth-ranked Spaniard saved three match points in downing 17th-ranked American Madison Keys 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3).

“You never knew who was going to win until the last point,” Muguruza said. “I had match points against me so it was really hard. I battled back and I’m glad things went my way.”

Muguruza has a last-eight date with eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 32-year-old Russian, a two-time Grand Slam champion, eliminated Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-4.



Cincinnati Open (Thursday’s matches):

Women’s singles (third round): 4-Garbine Muguruza Blanco (Spain) beat 16-Madison Keys (US) 6-4 3-6 7-6(3); 6-Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) beat Ashleigh Barty (Australia) 6-4 6-2; 8-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) beat Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain) 6-2 6-4; 2-Simona Halep (Romania) beat 15-Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia) 6-4 6-3; 7-Johanna Konta (Britain) beat 11-Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) 6-3 6-4.

Men’s singles (third round): Jared Donaldson (US) beat Nikoloz Basilashvili (Georgia) 6-4 7-6(4); David Ferrer (Spain) beat 11-Pablo Carreno (Spain) 6-4 6-4; Yuichi Sugita (Japan) beat Karen Khachanov (Russia) 6-7(0) 6-3 6-3; 7-Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) beat Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) 6-3 7-5; 3-Dominic Thiem (Austria) beat Adrian Mannarino (France) 7-6(4) 7-6(3).