Halep’s Stuttgart frustration rolls on, Mertens into Istanbul final

The Stuttgart Open is the only major clay court tournament Simona Halep is yet to win, and her wait will go on for at least another year

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Simona Halep’s quest to win Stuttgart for the first time fell short, this time at the hands of Aryna Sabalenka.

World number three Halep had claimed straight-set wins over Ekaterina Alexandrova and Marketa Vondrousova en route to the semi-finals, but met her match in the form of Belarusian Sabalenka, who triumphed 6-3 6-2.

A nine-time singles champion, Sabalenka made it into a 14th career final without conceding a single break, as she managed to keep Romanian Halep at arm’s length.

She now faces the world No 1 Ash Barty, who has come through a string of tough tests this week – and spent her birthday fending off the challenge of Elina Svitolina in the semi-final.

Mertens powers through

In the week’s other WTA tournament, top seed Elise Mertens made it to her second Istanbul Open as she saw off her doubles partner and  another birthday girl Veronika Kudermetova 6-1, 6-4.

It means Mertens will be playing in two finals on Sunday, as she pairs up with Kudermetova again in the doubles showdown against Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.

Mertens’ win ended Charleston champion Kudermetova’s nine-match winning streak, and set up a final against the unseeded Sorana Cirstea, who defeated Marta Kostyuk 6-4 6-4.

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