Dubai Tennis Championships: Double delight for Halep

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Dubai - Halep had to work her way through all week and she did the hard yards yet again and showed her class in the end.

By James Jose

Published: Sat 22 Feb 2020, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Sun 23 Feb 2020, 10:29 AM

Lately, women's tennis has been about thin fine margins and quite frankly, anyone can triumph on a given day. Kazakhstan's rising star Elena Rybakina had done admirably well all week but Romanian Simona Halep showed just why she holds top billing.
The top seed and world No.2 brought her rich experience to the fore to ward off the 20-year-old's threat to clinch her second WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday night.
In a final befitting the occasion, Halep, the French Open and Wimbledon champion, rallied brilliantly from a set down to triumph 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in two hours and 27 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
Halep had to work her way through all week and she did the hard yards yet again and showed her class in the end.
Halep also leveled their head-to-head meeting at 1-1 after she was forced to retire due to a lower back injury at Wuhan last year, in their only previous meeting prior to this.
The 28-year-old, who held the No.1 ranking in 2017, added to the title she had won in 2015 when she beat Czech Karolina Pliskova.
This was Halep's 20th title of her career and in doing so, she went level with Victoria Azarenka in sixth place on the list of active title winners. She is now behind the Williams sisters Serena and Venus, comeback mom Belgium's Kim Clijsters, former world No.1 Russia's Maria Sharapova and the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova.
Halep, who won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon last year by beating Serena, to become the first Romanian to triumph at the All England Club, is currently fifth on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen.
It has been a gruelling week for Halep, who came from the brink to defeat Tunisian wildcard Ons Jabeur after saving a match point in the second round. That win was to be the 500th of her career. Later, she fought back from a set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals. She did get a little bit of a breather though in the semifinals, when she prevailed in straight sets over American qualifier Jennifer Brady.
Rybakina, who reached the final of four of her five tournaments this year and who was on a 19-match win streak, had a peppy start, while Halep took a bit of time to get going.
Rybakina, who has now risen to a career high No.17, got the crucial break in the sixth game to land the first set in 37 minutes.
Halep was a lot calmer in the second set and that showed when she broke Rybakina easily in the fourth game after having three break points.
She turned it on but Rybakina showed signs of a comeback by breaking Halep in the seventh game. But Halep stubbed that by breaking back in the next game to then take the set 44 minutes.
The deciding set went down the wire and into the tie-break before Halep unfurled her fighting qualities and her experience to win it in 65 minutes.
"It feels great that I could win it. Actually, it was amazing. She fought till the end. She didn't give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I want it badly, so that's why I fought till the end," said an elated Halep, who plans to treat herself to a fantastic breakfast on Sunday morning, at the Burj Al Arab.
Meanwhile, it was mixed emotions for Rybakina.
"I played really well. It was actually a close match. I'm a bit upset that it's again just final. At the beginning of the week, I didn't even expect that I could be in the final. So, it's been a great week for me," said Rybakina.
Hsieh-Strycova too land Dubai double
Top seeds Chinese Taipei's Su-Wei Hsieh and her Czech partner Barbora Strycova had a fight on their hands before they went on to win their second WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships doubles title on Saturday.
The pair, who were runners-up at the Australian Open in January, fought their way past fifth seeds China's Saisai Zheng and Czech Republic's Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 3-6, 10-5 in an hour and 52 minutes in the doubles final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
The pair, who had not dropped a set until the final, added to the title they had won last year. It was also their second title this year after their victory in Brisbane.

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