Halep's First Premier Mandatory Final
Published May 10, 2014 12:13
Halep had never won a main draw match in Madrid prior to this year, but she is a far different player now than the one who lost those three first round matches here and the one who was ranked No.64 a year ago. Now ranked fifth, her victims this week have included 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki in the third round and former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals. She beat World No.6 Kvitova easily in last year's New Haven final in their one previous encounter - though few expected this one to be one-sided. Her 10th Top 10 win would put her in her first Premier Mandatory final, with her previous best showing in one being a semifinal appearance at Indian Wells earlier this year. It also would put her a win away from a rise to a career-high No.4 on the rankings.
Kvitova won her only WTA clay court title here in 2011, the same year she won Wimbledon, and was the lone former Madrid champion left in the draw. The Czech should have come into this match fresh, as Williams withdrew from their quarterfinal match with a left thigh injury. Against her first Top opponent of the season, she was looking to surpass her best outing of the season, a semifinal run in Sydney.
The Turning Point
It appeared this wouldn't be her day when Halep went down a set and 3-1. But she then caught fire and won 16 of the next 18 points and eventually eight straight games to capture the second set and go up an early break in the third. She went on to win that set comfortably and the match, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2.
By The Numbers
Though her conversion rate on break points wasn't great, five of 14, she made good on two of two in the second set and then in the decider she was two of seven, while Kvitova didn't even get a break point opportunity in that set.
"It was a very tough match," Halep said. "She's a great player and she played really well today. She served amazing and her forehand is really good. Today was a big challenge for me and I was fighting for every point until the end.
"I didn't believe anymore that I could win the match when I was down a set and a break. But I just stayed very focused and I tried to change the tactics a little bit, to play higher and more angles.
"It's very tough to believe where I am now. Last year here I started to play very well. I don't want to think that about being able to be Top 4 after this tournament. For me, it's more important to win the title. Of course, tomorrow will be a very tough match. Maria is a great champion. And she's playing really well here. I will just try to be happy and enjoy being in the final."
"I knew it was going to be a tough match," Kvitova said. "She beat me in the New Haven final, so I was looking forward to revenge. It was a long match and was a good fight throughout. She was just better in the end, but it was still a good match for me."
Halep squares off with World No.9 Maria Sharapova, whom she lost to in straight sets in both of their previous meetings.