Kerber in Cincy final, one win from top spot

Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:23pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber cooled off red-hot Simona Halep in straight sets on Saturday to reach the final of the Southern & Western Open in Cincinnati and move one win away from taking over as world number one.

Second seed Kerber beat the third-seeded Romanian, winner of 13 successive matches, 6-3 6-4 to set up a Sunday final against Karolina Pliskova.

The German needs to beat Pliskova to end Serena Williams' 183 successive weeks as world number one.

The American is three weeks short of Steffi Graf's all-time record, but the 28-year-old German can make her own history with a win on Sunday.

"I have still, one match to go," said left-hander Kerber, fresh off winning the Olympic silver and the Wimbledon runner-up to Williams last month.

"I would not think about this the whole week. Everybody's asking me about that. If it happens, it will be amazing, but still I have to focus on the next match against a real tough opponent, Pliskova."

The big-serving Pliskova, the 17th-seeded Czech, swept past French Open champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain in a dominant performance, winning 6-1 6-3 in the earlier semi-final.

Kerber leads her head-to-head against Pliskova 4-2, with the Czech's last win coming in last year's semi-finals in Sydney.

Kerber was locked in a tight first set in breezy conditions against Halep when rain forced a 30-minute delay.   Continued...

Aug 20, 2016; Mason, OH, USA; Angelique Kerber (GER) returns a shot against Simona Halep (ROU) in the semifinals during the Western and Southern tennis tournament at Linder Family Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports