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Halep’s hold on No. 1 gets boost with Keys’ withdrawal

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ROME — Simona Halep’s hold on the No. 1 ranking received a boost when American opponent Madison Keys withdrew from their third-round match at the Italian Open on Thursday due to a right rib injury.

Halep needed to reach the quarterfinals and progress further than No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki to hold onto the top spot, and she accomplished the first task.

Wozniacki was facing 15th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova in a late match on the red clay of the Foro Italico.

Keys also withdrew from the doubles competition, where she was partnered with Venus Williams.

Last year in Rome, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a lead and the championship to Elina Svitolina.

Halep will next play either U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens or seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Svitolina also reached the quarterfinals, overcoming a poor start to beat 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. She’ll next face either former No. 1 Angelique Kerber or Maria Sakkari of Greece.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts in 10 days.

Jelena Ostapenko, who is preparing to defend her title at Roland Garros, rallied past Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will meet either three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova or Daria Gavrilova.

In men’s action, Fabio Fognini beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first quarterfinal in 11 appearances at his home tournament.

The temperamental Fognini slammed his racket midway through the second set and received a warning from the chair umpire but otherwise held his composure to follow up an impressive win over Dominic Thiem a day earlier.

Fognini’s next opponent will be either seven-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal or Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov.

Novak Djokovic moves step closer to first Cincinnati title

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MASON, Ohio — Novak Djokovic closed in on the one title that has eluded him, reaching the final of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday with a three-set victory over Marin Cilic.

His 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win moved him one victory away from the only ATP Masters 1000 title he’s never claimed. Djokovic is trying to become the first to win all nine events since the series started in 1990.

One big hurdle: a potential rematch with Roger Federer, who faced David Goffin in the other semifinal. Federer has won an unprecedented seven Cincinnati titles, beating Djokovic three times in championship matches.

“It’s been a roller-coaster week with matches and the interruptions with the rain and all that’s happened,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic completed his long recovery from elbow surgery by winning Wimbledon for the fourth time last month. He then set out to get his hard-court game in form for the U.S. Open.

Along the way, he dearly wants to get a title in Cincinnati, where he’s 0-5 in the finals.

Frustrated by his ragged play early in his semifinal win over Milos Raonic, Djokovic slammed his racket on the court, sending pieces of the frame into the air. The racket-busting became a turning point.

When he closed out the victory Saturday, he walked calmly to the net to congratulate Cilic and then raised both arms in triumph.

In the women’s bracket, Kiki Bertens advanced to her first Western & Southern Open final, wearing down No. 8 Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for a chance at her second title of the season.

Bertens is an unexpected finalist, winning only one match during three previous appearances in Cincinnati. Her only title this season was at Charleston.

Known as more of a clay court player, Bertens has reached a hard-court final for the first time, spending more time getting accustomed to the different style of play.

“I think also I’m less stressed,” she said. “So before the match, I’m less nervous than I used to be. Before I was like, `Oh, I play on center court and a lot of people are watching.’ But now I’m just more relaxed.”

Top-ranked Simona Halep played later Saturday against Aryna Sabalenka, trying to reach the finals for the third time. Halep has never won a Cincinnati title, losing the final match last year to Garbine Muguruza.

A week of rain delays and double-duty days wore on players, many of whom wound up playing twice in a day. Kvitova faded in her second straight three-set match, ending her best showing in Cincinnati. She’d made five previous appearances in semifinals this season, winning each tournament.

“My legs were pretty heavy,” Kvitova said. “I just couldn’t really jump at all. It was very, very tiring, the second set, and I just think that I couldn’t really find energy in the third one. I was really trying, but nothing.”

Bertens tops Kvitova, advances to finals in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio – Kiki Bertens advanced to her first Western & Southern Open final on Saturday, wearing down No. 8 Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for a chance at her second title of the season.

Bertens is an unexpected finalist, winning only one match during three previous appearances in Cincinnati. Her only title this season was at Charleston.

Top-ranked Simona Halep plays later, trying to reach the finals for the third time. She has never won a Cincinnati title.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic highlight the men’s semifinals, needing a win on Saturday to play each other for the title. Federer is trying for a record eighth Cincinnati title. Djokovic is trying to win the tournament for the first time.