Second Chance For Simona
Published April 23, 2011 03:12
FÈS, Morocco - The WTA will welcome a first-time titlist on Sunday, after Simona Halep and Alberta Brianti won through to the final of the Grand Prix de SAR la Princesse Lalla Meryem on Saturday. Unseeded Brianti was gifted passage to her second final when Dinara Safina withdrew from their semi due to illness, while seventh-seeded Halep prevailed in a close two-setter against Kirsten Flipkens, 75 64.
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Both finalists will be taking their second shot at a tour title; 12 months ago, Halep reached the final here as a qualifier, in what was just her third WTA main draw. Although the experienced Czech Iveta Benesova got the better of her on that occasion, she has improved her ranking from No.144 to No.67, and will head into the championship bout as favorite.
The 19-year-old Romanian rising star certainly put on an assured display against Flipkens, herself enjoying the best week on clay of her career but with a game more suited to faster surfaces.
Serving first, the Belgian had a break point for 5-3 in the opener. But having saved it, Halep made the first breakthrough for 6-5, served out the set, and gathered further momentum to break for 3-2 in the second. She held onto that advantage till the end, closing it out with a love game on her own serve.
"It was a difficult match, because she played a different game with slice and slowly more, but I'm happy that I played good and I found the game to beat her," said Halep.
Ironically it was Safina who stopped Brianti's run in what was her first ever tour semifinal appearance, at Portoroz in 2009. This time it wasn't the Russian's back that caused her trouble, but an upset stomach.
"After my match yesterday I had a fever of 40.5," Safina tweeted. "It's sad because I was playing good, but health is more important."
Nina Bratchikova and Sandra Klemenschits were also beneficiaries of the Russian's bad luck, receiving a walkover from Safina and Galina Voskoboeva to reach the doubles final. They face top seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Renata Voracova, who booked their place on Friday.
Halep has now won 10 of the 11 matches she has played at Fès. She'll gain further confidence from the knowledge that she lost just two games to Brianti when they met in qualifying at Montréal last year. Now 31, Brianti's first final was at Guangzhou two years ago.