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United States’ Sloane Stephens reacts after defeating Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky during their playoff-round Fed Cup tennis match on April 20, 2019.
United States’ Sloane Stephens reacts after defeating Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky during their playoff-round Fed Cup tennis match on April 20, 2019.|Darren Abate | Associated Press
Tennis

WTA Tennis Friday: Abrams picks the Madrid Open women’s semifinals – Simona Halep vs Belinda Bencic and Sloane Stephens vs Kiki Bertens 

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

2019 Mutua Madrid Open
Madrid, Spain
Friday, May 10, 2019
Women’s Picks – Semifinals

Simona Halep over Belinda Bencic
This sublime semifinal matchup was made possible when Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic took out top-seed and world #1 Naomi Osaka 7-5 in the third. This 22-year-old holds a 2-1 career record over Simona Halep, the 3rd seed, including a win just a couple of months ago in Dubai. Halep rolled into the semis with a tight 7-5, 7-5 victory over Australia’s Ash Barty. Halep seems to me to be firing on all cylinders and is confident, certainly after her 0 and 0 win in the Round of 16. There’s no doubt that this one is going to be tight and close when it counts, but I like the fire in Halep’s eyes, and I think she’ll move into the finals.

Sloane Stephens over Kiki Bertens
I’m not convinced that Sloane Stephens is playing anywhere near as well as she can, but what she’s putting forth may just be good enough. She surprised me by taking out Petra Martic in straight sets in the quarters, and I guess you can’t ask much more from a player than that. Bertens, on the other hand, looks like she’s brimming with confidence. She knocked off 2nd seeded Petra Kvitova 2 and 3, and at this stage of a Tour event that’s a whitewash. I like the Yank because she has yet to lose to Bertens, and I think that trend will continue.