Halep one win away from return to rankings summit after reaching Madrid final

Simona Halep will return to the world number one spot if she can defeat Kiki Bertens in the Mutua Madrid Open final on Saturday.

Halep lost top spot to Naomi Osaka after the Japanese player won the Australian Open in January but is only one victory away from regaining it after a hard-fought 6-2 6-7 (2) 6-0 success against Belinda Bencic in the Spanish capital.

French Open champion Halep, the winner in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, is regarded as the best clay-court player on tour and she has been in fine form this week, not dropping a set until this match.

Bencic defeated Osaka in the quarter-finals to continue her brilliant 2019 but, after edging the second set, was unable to maintain the required consistency to really threaten a repeat against Halep.

It will be a second straight final appearance in Madrid for seventh seed Bertens, who gained revenge on reigning champion Petra Kvitova in the last eight before defeating Sloane Stephens 6-2 7-5 on Friday.

Stephens battled well in the second set and had chances to take it to a decider but Bertens held on.

- Press Association

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