A Guide to Saturday's Semifinals

The men’s and women’s singles semifinals at the Western & Southern Open will feature five top-10 players on court Saturday.  

The women’s semifinals lead off the 1 p.m. session Saturday on Center Court with fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza and 15th-seeded Karolina Pliskova. They will be followed by second-seeded Angelique Kerber and third-seeded Simona Halep.

The men’s matches begin at 7 p.m. Top-seeded Andy Murray plays fourth-seeded Milos Raonic. They will be followed by 12th-seeded Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov. 

MUGURUZA, PLISKOVA LEAD OFF SEMIFINAL DAY

Fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain and 15th-seeded Karolina Pliskova will meet in the first semifinal on Saturday’s schedule at 1 p.m. on center court. 

Muguruza, the reigning French Open champion, had never advanced past the first round of Cincinnati and now finds herself a match away from the finals. She defeated qualifier Timea Babos in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-3. 

“Every time you play a very powerful game like Timea’s today, you're a little bit tense the whole match,” Muguruza said. “I’m very excited that I'm in the semifinals here because I didn't win a lot of matches here in the past. I think was a tough match, very equal. Maybe couple of serves, a couple of returns, made the difference.”

Pliskova defeated seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in their first career meeting. Pliskova said they have practiced together a few times and she prepared further by watching film and talking to her sister, Kristyna, who had faced Kuznetsova before. 

“For me, it's still the same thing,” Pliskova said. “If I play my game and still play aggressive and serve well, then I don't have any other plan to play.”

Muguruza and Pliskova are meeting for the first time this year with Pliskova leading the all-time series 2-1. 

“She's been playing amazing so far,” Pliskova said of Muguruza. “She is having great tournaments, great victories, so it's going to be tough.

“I think we have a similar game, both serving and playing fast from the baseline. It's going to be about few points. I want to keep focus on my serve this time, and hopefully I can get the win.

Pliskova is chasing multiple titles this week. She is also in the doubles semifinals. 

NO. 2 VS. NO. 3

In the second women’s semifinal of the day, second-seeded Angelique Kerber and third-seeded Simona Halep will face for the fourth time this season.

On her way to the semifinals, Kerber was down a set and break in the second set to Carla Suarez Navarrow before rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory in the quarterfinals. 

Kerber has put together the best season of her career thus far, winning the Australian Open and reaching the finals of Wimbledon and the Olympics. She has won 18 of her last 22 matches. 

“When you win the matches you have much more confidence and you can do it and turn around matches and go for three sets after you lose the first one,” Kerber said. “That gives me more confidence also for the next challenges.”

Halep was trailing 4-0 in her quarterfinal match against Agnieszka Radwanska before reeling off 15 of the last 17 games. 

Kerber and Halep are facing for the fourth time this year. Kerber won the first two meetings and clay and grass, but Halep won the most recent meeting two weeks ago in the Montreal semifinals 6-0, 3-6, 6-2. 

“I have to run; I have to slow down my emotions, because with her you feel that you can go for the balls, like to be aggressive, but it's not that easy,” Halep said. “I have to be patient. I have to do my game like I did today.”

MASTERS FIRSTS

Marin Cilic, the No. 12 seed from Croatia, and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced off last week at the Olympics, and they will meet again Saturday in their first career ATP Masters 1000 semifinals. 

Cilic advanced to through the quarterfinals when he won his first set 6-2 and Borna Coric retired. Powered by a strong finish in his first set tiebreaker, Dimitrov defeated American Steve Johnson 7-6(8), 6-2. 

Though Cilic had never advanced past the quarterfinals at an Masters 1000 event, he already has a Grand Slam trophy in hand after winning the 2014 US Open. This year, he has reached a pair of finals and the Wimbledon quarterfinals in addition to leading the Croatian Davis Cup team to the upcoming semifinals. 

“Somehow in the Grand Slams I'm playing always bit better than on Masters Series events,” Cilic said. “Here is the first time I made it to the semifinals ever on a Masters Series, Masters 1000 tournament, so it's obviously big step forward for me.”

Two weeks removed from his quarterfinal appearance at the Masters 1000 event in Toronto, Dimitrov advanced to his first career Masters semifinal with a victory over Johnson. Dimitrov said executing his game plan was vital from the start because Johnson has been playing the best tennis of his career this summer. 

“I thought I was the leader of the match, which really helps, especially against a player like Stevie,” Dimitrov said. “He's super confident right now and playing great, great tennis, so that makes him super dangerous.

Cilic and Dimitrov, who play the final match of the day Saturday, played in the opening round of the Olympics last week with Cilic winning the encounter 6-1, 6-4. Cilic, who made the third round at Rio, said the court conditions there were much slower so he expects a different rematch. 

“Grigor, when he's on his shots, he can produce great, great tennis,” Cilic said. “Obviously with his attacking style of game he's always trying to mix up with his backhand slice and even coming to the net sometimes.”

WIMBLEDON FINAL REMATCH

In a rematch of the Wimbledon finals, top-seeded Andy Murray and fourth-seeded Milos Raonic square off in the last semifinal of the night on Center Court. 

Raonic is back in the Cincinnati finals for the second time in his career thanks to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over eighth-seeded Dominic Thiem. Though Raonic and Thiem have practiced together many times, even this week, this was the first time they had faced.

“I've practiced with him many times, so to some extent I have an understanding of his game, like he has of mine,” Raonic said. “But it's a little different come match time, so I did a little bit of studying.”

In the last match of the night, Murray defeated Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-4. He is now riding a career-best 21-match winning streak and has won 32 of his last 33 matches. 

Murray leads the all-time series against Raonic 7-3. Murray has won all four meetings this year, including a victory in the Wimbledon title match 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(2).

“There are a lot of discussions that we've had with my team about situations in that final that I could have dealt with better,” Raonic said. “I’m definitely going to try to enforce those things, because these are the moments that I can really work on.”

 

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