NÜRNBERG, Germany - She had been to three WTA finals before but fell each time, and in straight sets, no less. But Simona Halep finally converted at the NÜRNBERGER VERSICHERUNGSCUP on Saturday, beating former Top 10 player Andrea Petkovic for the first WTA title of her young career.
Petkovic had beaten Halep on Halep's home turf in Romania in their only previous meeting, but it was revenge time this time, as the No.7-seeded Halep held all nine of her service games and broke Petkovic three times en route to a 63 63 victory. Halep's serving performance was steely - she fought off all eight of Petkovic's break points, and she even closed four of her service games out with aces.
"This is a very nice win for me, and this is a very nice tournament - I'll never forget this," Halep said. "Andrea beat me in Romania a few years ago and I'm happy I could win against her here today. She played great and the atmosphere was great. It's an unbelievable feeling to win my first WTA title."
Halep is the eighth Romanian ever to capture a WTA title, after Virginia Ruzici, Irina Spirlea, Ruxandra Dragomir Ilie, Sorana Cirstea, Alexandra Dulgheru, Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu. Before 2008, only Ruzici, Spirlea and Dragomir Ilie had won a WTA title - since 2008 the floodgates seem to have opened, with Cirstea, Dulgheru, Begu, Niculescu and now Halep collecting WTA titles.
Halep's first three WTA finals came at Fès in 2010 (falling to Iveta Benesova, 64 62), Fès again in 2011 (falling to Alberta Brianti, 64 63) and Brussels in 2012 (falling to Agnieszka Radwanska, 75 60).
Petkovic, who was a wildcard in the draw, may not have won the title, but her confidence is high.
"There are definitely more positives than negatives," Petkovic said. "The good thing is Simona made it a little easier for me to get over the loss because she played such an incredible match. She played an almost perfect match, especially after she found her rhythm in the middle of the first set. I wasn't playing my best tennis, but even if I was playing my best tennis, it would be a very, very tough call.
"I have a lot of respect for how she played against me. She more than deserved to win today."
Petkovic will now head across the water to London, where she was recently announced as a wildcard for Wimbledon. She is a three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, but there's one missing in her collection - she has never been that far at Wimbledon, in fact the furthest she has ever gone is the third round.
"Everybody knows that grass and me haven't become a love romance yet," she said. "But I'm working on it. A few candlelight dinners with the grass and we'll see. I hope it turns out to be a better thing."