Final Preview: It All Comes Down To This

After a packed week of world-class tennis at the Western & Southern Open, one man and one woman will raise the Rookwood Cup on Sunday. Simona Halep, Kiki Bertens and Novak Djokovic will all be fighting for their first Cincinnati title, while Roger Federer will be looking for his—wait for it—eighth. 

[1] Simona Halep vs Kiki Bertens 

Halep is on a roll. Beginning with her title run last week in Montreal, the 26-year-old world No. 1 has racked up nine straight wins, including a convincing straight-victory over 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday. The two-time Cincinnati finalist holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Bertens, with the Romanian winning their last meeting on clay in Rome last spring. “She hits very low balls and she's serving well,” Halep said of Bertens. “So I will try just to keep the attention on myself and to do my game.”

Bertens has had an impressive season of her own, capturing the title in Charleston, reaching two finals and rising to a career-high rank of No. 15 in the world. Prior to 2018, Bertens’ success primarily came on clay, the surface on which she’s won all five of her career titles. Then she reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon this summer, followed by a run to the Montreal quarterfinals on hard court. This week she took out No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals and No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova in the semifinals. Clay court specialist, no more. 

The 26-year-old from the Netherlands summed it up on Saturday: “I think that you can achieve everything. Like, if you really work hard, a lot of things are possible.” 

[2] Roger Federer vs [10] Novak Djokovic 

Federer will face off against Djokovic in the Cincinnati final for the fourth time on Sunday and the 46th time overall. While Federer is shooting for an eighth Western & Southern Open title, Djokovic is seeking his first after reaching five previous Western & Southern Open finals. The 31-year-old Serb holds a 23-22 lifetime advantage over Federer, with Djokovic winning their last matchup at the 2016 Australian Open semifinals. 

“[Roger] has influenced me greatly—the rivalry with him, and him personally, has influenced the evolution of my game,” Djokovic said. “It would be the greatest challenge in Cincinnati, without a doubt, because he's been dominating this tournament historically.”

Djokovic’s semifinal win over Cilic Saturday afternoon was his fourth straight three-set win this week, while Federer’s night match ended at 1-1 in the second set after an arm injury forced David Goffin to retire. 

“I think what's nice about this is that it’s fresh,” Federer said about playing Djokovic for the first time in over two years. “It's not like we have played in the last few weeks and everybody knows what to expect.”

Ekaterina Makarova and Lucie Hradecka closed out Saturday night with a straight-set win over Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs to capture their first title as a team.

Sunday will also include the men’s doubles final, pitting seventh-seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah against No. 4 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil.