14 May, 2017
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). In the second set, Halep broke Mladenovic in the second game, but Mladenovic was able to claw back into the set to tie it 4-4.
Momentum swung backwards and forwards during a marathon opening set on Estadio Manolo Santana.
The last two encounters on the clay for Anastasija Sevastova against Simona Halep have not been anything the Latvian would like to dwell on, but she was the one who started though more positive with even a smile in the first game while Halep was the one that looked on edge with two double faults in her first game. "That's going to be a brand-new challenge for me, especially that she's more used to being in a finals of such a big events than me, especially here in Madrid".
Halep has yet to win a title this year, but victory against Kristina Mladenovic in Saturday's final at the Caja Majica would see her climb to fourth in the rankings.
And 14th seed Mladenovic emerged with plenty of credit after reaching her first final at premier mandatory level, the grade immediately below grand slam tournaments.
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Mladenovic showing off her deft touch at the net, peppering the drop shots and volleys into her game while the former French Open champion pounced on the short balls and cutting off the angles.
"I can just be proud out there from what both of us showed". However, Halep was improving all the time, and she broke again to level, and saved break point to hold for the lead, 6-5.
And make no mistake, Halep has fine clay credentials.
However, she does earn a bye to the second round in the Eternal City, while Mladenovic, who rises to a seeding of 13, will have to take that sore back straight into action in Round 1, and it is a tough one against Julia Goerges. "I really have to bring up my best game". Great spirit, attitude, great game.
However, Halep responded to break back in a marathon game as it took almost half an hour for the score just to reach 2-2.