Madrid Final: As It Happened
Published May 11, 2014 12:12
Next it's Sharapova's turn. She's certainly popular round these parts and she needed that crowd support at times today. "What a week, last year I lost in the finals and I really wanted to go one better this time," Sharapova said. "Simona played great to day and I'm not sure how I pulled it out in the end.
"It was tough losing in the final last year and I knew I had to do a few things better to win this year, which thankfully I did."
Halep is first up on stage to receive her runner-up trophy before congratulating Sharapova and charming the crowd with a very humble speech.
SHARAPOVA WINS THE MUTUA MADRID OPEN, 16 62 63! From the second set onwards, Sharapova has been relentless, and she wraps up victory with some quite brilliant retrieving, scurrying from side to side before Halep eventually nets with a backhand.
Sharapova 5-3: Sharapova nips the comeback in the bud with some more precise serving to move within touching distance of a first Madrid title.
Sharapova 4-3: Halep is showing tremendous spirit out there and recovers from 0-30 to keep it to a single break.
Sharapova 4-2: Hold the press. Halep capitalizes on a flurry of errors to pull back one of the breaks.
Sharapova 4-1: The finishing line is now in sight. Sharapova is in full flow, hitting her 20th winner of the match on her way to the double break.
Sharapova 3-1: Sharapova faces a rare bit of pressure on serve, with a couple of deuces, but she produces a great response to deny Halep.
Sharapova 2-1: Halep looks to be heading for a comfortable hold, but is pegged back to deuce before Sharapova breaks after drawing a backhand error on the back of a punishing baseline exchange.
1-1: It's getting a tad repetitive now, as Sharapova rattles off another quick-fire hold, the highlight being a magnificent crosscourt forehand winner.
Halep 1-0: Halep is yet to lose a three-set match this year and she will have her work cut out maintaining this statistic. But she makes a good start to the decider, capitalizing on a few loose shots from the other end to hold onto her serve.
Sharapova 6-2: There has been a compete turnaround on the Sharapova serve too and she wraps up yet another imperious game when Halep nets with a limp slice backhand. One set all.
Sharapova 5-2: Halep has certainly not been quite as aggressive this set and she is punished for a few passive points in this game, Sharapova pegging her back to deuce, before capturing the double break with fabulous forehand that Halep can barely get her racquet to.
Sharapova 4-2: Another comfortable hold for the Russian, who is really dictating points now, completing another comfortable hold when Halep frames a backhand long.
Sharapova 3-2: Halep regroups with a few nicely constructed points but a couple of errors get Sharapova back to 30-30. Umpire Kader Nouni has been up and down from his chair like a yo-yo this match and is called into action once more to check that a Sharapova forehand has indeed missed its mark. Halep hangs on to stay in touch.
Sharapova 3-1: Sharapova is starting to boss the points and punishing Halep at every opportunity. She even gets away with a left-handed forehand en route to a comfortable hold.
Sharapova 2-1: Halep's level has dropped a notch and she is starting to struggle. She certainly does not lack for fighting spirit, though, and stays in the hunt, by digging out a gritty service hold.
Sharapova 2-0: Sharapova has served well this week, but is struggling to make her first delivery today. A few nice points and few errors give Halep a few chances for an immediate break back. Sharapova saves one with a serve, and then a second when Halep sends a forehand long. She saves another break point with a bold second serve before holding on for a potentially crucial hold.
Sharapova 1-0: The Madrid crowd looks like it could finally be getting the contest it so desperately wants. A couple of big returns take Sharapova to 30-30, before an inside-out forehand brings up her first break point of the match. She converts by finishing off a point of dogged defense with a stunning down-the-line backhand winner.
Halep 6-1: Halep is calling all the shots and the situation is starting to take it's toll on the four-time major winner. A few more errors bring up two set points. Sharapova saves the first, but it's only delaying the inevitable and a backhand into net brings the first set to an end after just 29 minutes.
Halep 5-1: Halep has barely put a foot wrong this set and continues to impress, cruising through another service game.
Halep 4-1: To the surprise of most, not least her opponent, Halep has taken on the role of aggressor this afternoon, moving Sharapova around at will. Sharapova digs in to get back to 30-30, and despite a couple of nervy second serves, eventually gets on the board when Halep makes a rare unforced error.
Halep 4-0: Sharapova's coach, Sven Groeneveld, comes out for a quick pep talk at the changeover, but it doesn't seem to have helped. The Romanian is having a lot of fun out there. A beautiful backhand helps her to a love service game.
Halep 3-0: Has Haelp read the script? It is the more experienced Sharapova that seems to be struggling with her nerves, hitting a double fault to go 0-30. Halep draws another error with some great length on the return before getting the double break when the Russian hits another double fault.
Halep 2-0: A few moments of danger for Halep, as Sharapova gets to 30-30 and then deuce, but she serves her way out of trouble in impressive fashion to consolidate the break.
Halep 1-0: Halep won the toss and elected to receive and it's a decision that reaps immediate dividends. A couple of early errors from Sharapova give her half a chance before a beautiful forehand return onto line brings first break points of the match. She only needs one bite of the cherry, taking the early break when a Sharapova forehand sails long.
Past encounters between the two have gone the way of the Russian, who won in Indian Wells and Beijing, in 2012. Since then, though, Halep has come on in leaps and bounds. In the past 12 months she has bounded up the rankings, picking up seven trophies along the way.
For someone who famously once described her own movement on a clay court as like a "cow on ice", Sharapova looks pretty confident on the surface nowadays. In fact, six of her last eight titles have come on the terre battue that she once so openly loathed and goes into the final riding high on a 10-match winning streak.
To get an idea of the challenge facing Halep in her first Premier mandatory final, since losing to Li Na in 2011 French Open semifinals, Sharapova has lost just three times. All three came at the hands of World No.1 Serena Williams.