Brady defeats Gauff in straight sets to reach first WTA final
American Jennifer Brady defeated compatriot Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4 at the Top Seed Open on Saturday, earning a spot in her first WTA final.
The outdoor, hard court tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, marks the first WTA event in the United States since the coronavirus outbreak forced a hiatus and upended the professional sports calendar.
World no. 49 Brady used a powerful serve to her advantage over Gauff at the fanless tournament, firing off eight aces and winning nearly 85% of her first-serve points, to set up a final clash with Switzerland's Jil Teichmann.
"I've been working a little bit on all aspects of the serve, mainly the stroke and the timing of the serve, more technique, things like that," said Brady. "If I'm able to serve well, I'm able to start the point aggressive, start it in my favor."
Teichmann, who won both of her two WTA titles at clay court tournaments last year, defeated American Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-2 to earn her final berth.
"Obviously everyone thinks I'm just a clay court player - I think I've proven it's not only this way," the 23-year-old said. "I've been feeling great on hard courts since the beginning of the year... My goal was just to keep on this level."
Brady and Teichmann face off on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).
Halep sets up final date with Mertens at Prague Open
Romanian top seed Simona Halep beat compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets in the semi-finals of the Prague Open on Saturday to set up a final with third seed Elise Mertens of Belgium.
Halep was broken three times in the first set but managed to win the tiebreak before Begu, who finished her quarter-final match earlier in the day, ran out of steam as the reigning Wimbledon champion won 7-6(2) 6-3.
Begu's quarter-final was suspended on Friday when she was leading Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-2, 0-1 and the match went the distance on Saturday with the Romanian winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 after a total of two hours and 40 minutes.
Begu had spent more than seven hours on court at the tournament and the fatigue was starting to show with the 29-year-old taking a medical time out in the opening set which allowed Halep to refocus.
"I didn't play my best tennis but she was also tired... it was a good match," Halep said. "I'm really happy that I could win it. It's always tough to play against her, she's a great player.
"She was playing really well at that point and she was kind of dominating the match. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad to play long matches because sometimes you get the rhythm, and sometimes you get tired."
Earlier in the day, Mertens got the better of Kristyna Pliskova to win 7-5 7-6(4), saving seven of eight break points to advance.
"It was a really close match, just a couple of points of difference," Mertens said. "We both served well, so it was difficult to break each other."
"In the end, it was just one break difference in the first set and I think I managed it well at the end. In the second set, we were both winning our serve and although I made a couple of errors in the tiebreak, I stayed mentally tough."
Bencic latest to withdraw from US Open
World number eight Belinda Bencic has withdrawn from this year's US Open, joining a growing list of players who have decided to skip the tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bencic on Saturday announced her decision on Twitter where she also said she would skip the Western & Southern Open which is being held in New York this year instead of Cincinnati as a lead-up to the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 US Open.
"I have made the difficult decision to skip the US swing in New York and will return to the tour starting in Rome next month," she said.
"I am looking forward to returning to New York next year and wish everyone competing there in the coming weeks the best of luck."
The Swiss, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open last year, is the latest top-10 player on the women's side to skip the major, joining Australian Ash Barty (one), Canadian Bianca Andreescu (six) Ukraine's Elina Svitolina (five) and Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens (seven).
Her decision means three of last year's semi-finalists have withdrawn, with Serena Williams the only one of the four set to take part at Flushing Meadows.
The United States Tennis Association has decided to go ahead with the Grand Slam without spectators while players will be asked to follow strict measures, including regular testing, in a bid to avoid spread of the virus.