Halep eyes second straight Madrid title after downing Sevastova

A determined Simona Halep retained her Madrid Open title by overcoming the courageous Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 on Sunday (AEST).

Halep finished runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014. The two met at the 2017 Indian Wells Masters where Mladenovic defeated Halep in straight sets. She won the St. Petersburg title.

Furthermore, should Halep win this tournament, she will join Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova as the only three players to win this tournament twice. The match did not really seem to catch fire with the next few games being pretty competitive before Mladenovic got the advantage she needed late in the first set for a break, before serving the first set out on her third set point.

The defending champion thrashed this year's Australian Open semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe, 6-1, 6-1 and despite going a break down in the second set, Halep eased past last year's US Open quarterfinalist Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2, 6-3 to reach her third Mutua Madrid Open final in four years.

Mladenovic's free-hitting and inventive use of volleys and drop-shots kept Halep off balance, but the world No.8's superior mobility eventually told, as she earned a double break without giving up her own serve to seal a hard-fought crown. With the momentum running in her, the Top 10 player prevailed in almost every long rally and was dealing well with the deadly Sevastova drop shots, eventually taking the first set 6-2 after just 36 minutes. The final with Halep will be hard and I need to prepare. After two April quarter finals in Charleston and Stuttgart, Anastasia for the second time in the season after the tournament in Dubai goes to the semifinals. "There were times we both had, like, some bad moments because we would try too much to change our natural game".

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The 14th seed will need to serve well and hope her forehand is firing on all cylinders.

And make no mistake, Halep has fine clay credentials.

Both players know each other's game like the back of their hand, and the familiarity showed in the early stages of the match as they opened with a pair of breaks.

"Yeah, just head up and only take the positives".

Prediction: Halep to retain the title in straight sets.

  • Tabitha Byrd