Halep reaches final, Djokovic advances after Cilic pulls out

Simona Halep beat Belinda Bencic to reach the Madrid Open final

Stephens comfortably saw off Croatian Petra Martic 6-4, 6-3 to set up a semi-final with Bertens after the Dutch seventh seed stunned world number two Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-3 in Thursday's late match under the floodlights.

She will play either Kiki Bertens or Sloane Stephens - who she beat in last year's French Open final - on Saturday.

Incidentally, Osaka has also blamed getting distracted by the race to the top spot in the WTA rankings as one of the reasons for her defeat to the Swiss unseeded player.

"There's a lot of happy things to take from this because I lost in the first round previous year so anything is an improvement, honestly".

World number one Djokovic was untroubled as he beat Jeremy Chardy 6-1 7-6 (2) to set up a clash against Marin Cilic after the Croatian battled past Serbian Laslo Djere 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Twice Madrid victor Halep broke the unseeded Bencic in the first game of the first set, the Swiss's errant backhand flying out, but she broke back to tie at 2-2.

In the men's tournament, Novak Djokovic will play Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title after the 20-year-old Greek stunned Rafael Nadal on Saturday to win a thrilling semifinal 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 on his fourth match point. Halep won eight break points in the match.

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The Dutchwoman fought back, though, winning four consecutive games to take the first set 6-4, hitting nine winners and claiming three out of five break points.

Halep was chasing her third success in four years in this tournament, but delivered the sort of patchy, disgruntled display that has hindered her before with a trophy in sight.

A second came and went too but Bertens finally converted the third, Halep failing to reach a drop-shot and giving her opponent the chance to celebrate. I wanted to win this match so much because she'd beaten me before.

Halep, who would have returned to No. 1 with a win today, now heads to Rome and then has her French Open title defense. Bertens has a WTA-best 219 aces in 2019. The Swiss lost in the opening rounds in 2014 and 2015.

Halep, victor in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, lost the chance to take over the No. 1 ranking from Naomi Osaka. Due to Osaka's quarterfinal loss, Halep would return to the world no. 1 ranking with a triumph over Bertens.

The victory gave Bertens her eighth career main tour tennis title and first Premier Mandatory event crown.

It will come down to a battle between Bertens and her power game against Halep's more polished all-around play.

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