Simona Halep was happy.
That’s all she could say to a packed stadium filled with loyal supporters who cheered the No. 1 seed’s first Dubai Duty Free Championships victory, and 10th WTA career title.
“You’re amazing guys,” Halep said, looking up at fans. “I want to thank you; and, I can say I love you.”
Her delight came as a relief, as well. She won on her fourth match point after a swing of six consecutive service breaks took the battle to a tiebreak in the second set. Halep sealed the win 6-4, 7-6(4) over Karolina Pliskova to improve to 10-6 in finals and she will move back to No. 3 in the world Monday. The victory also notches Halep to No. 3 in the WTA’s Road To Singapore, and Pliskova to No. 4.
The two women had never played each other until today. Halep, known for her defensive skills and all-round court sense, knew Pliskova would present a formidable presence on serve. The 6-foot-1 Czech leads the WTA in aces this year and ended 2014 right behind Serena Williams in total aces.
“I know that she had a big serve, so I practiced,” Halep said on court. “I stayed focused for every point.”
Her comment reflected her overall concentration throughout the match.
However, there were lapses.
She committed seven double faults, with two coming back-to-back as she served for the match for a second time at *6-5.
“I didn’t believe in my serve at that moment,” Halep said, when questioned about her missed opportunity to serve out her quarterfinal match against Ekaterina Makarova. “I was very nervous, and I wanted just to hit winners.”
The same held true today.
The match revved up in the second set, polishing its bang-bang-tennis appeal. Pliskova smacked flat groundies, thriving off pace. She held to love, then broke Halep to jump ahead. Although the No. 17 seed’s erratic play restrained her momentum, her resilience consistently threatened Halep’s hopes of dominating.
While Pliskova is never one to show much emotion during a match, but her first pumps and glances toward her player box were telltale signs of determination and will – while Halep continued to squander opportunities to close the match.
“I was trying to turn it around, but even if I won the second set, I don’t know if I would have won the whole match,” Pliskova said, the WTA reported. “She [Halep] doesn’t give up on any point. She runs really, really well, and it’s hard to kill the ball against her.”
But neither woman backed off, once the other had to serve. Clean winners snapped off Pliskova’s racquet. Halep scrambled along the baseline, running down balls thought lost. Excitement built like as each showed off her athletic skills.
“I lost, so I’m not really happy right now,” Pliskova said. “But, obviously, I’m happy for the week and for the last two or three weeks I had. I had so many matches here and beat great players. I’m not disappointed.”
Halep’s victory today should raise her confidence, which was undermined in Melbourne in a lackluster display during the quarterfinals against Makarova. With no rest for the weary, Halep is scheduled to begin her title defense at the Qatar Open next week.
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