We're counting down the Top 5 WTA matches of 2017: No.2 is Simona Halep's stunning repeat in Madrid, courtesy of a three-set epic agains the in-form Kristina Mladenovic.
WTA Staff
November 16, 2017

To mark the end of an incredible 2017 season, we're counting down the Top 5 WTA matches of the year! 

No.2 is the mammoth singles final from the Mutua Madrid Open, as Simona Halep edged Kristina Mladenovic in a tight three-setter to win her second straight title at the Premier Mandatory stop. 

Read more: Top 5 WTA 2017 Matches
(No.5): Mladenovic vs Putintseva
(No.4): Wozniacki vs Pliskova
(No.3): Vesnina vs Kuznetsova

WHAT HAPPENED:

In the clay-court Premier Mandatory event, Halep was going for her second straight title in the Spanish capital after reaching her third final in four years in Madrid.

It wasn't easy going for the No.3 seed to get there, however, as she edged Roberta Vinci in a third-set tiebreak in the second round, and also needed three sets to defeat former French Open finalist Samantha Stosur in the third round.

The Romanian saved her best tennis for the late stages, however, dropping just two games against CoCo Vandeweghe in the last eight, and five games to Anastasija Sevastova in the semifinals.

Read the match report: Halep downs Mladenovic for back-to-back Madrid titles

On the top half of the draw, Mladenovic continued her sizzling early-season form as the season moved from hard courts to clay.

The Frenchwoman was fresh off a runner-up finish at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she beat top seed Angelique Kerber and came from a set down to defeat wildcard Maria Sharapova in the latter's first tournament of the season, before falling to hometown favorite Laura Siegemund in a marathon three-set final.

To reach her first career WTA Premier Mandatory final, Mladenovic defeated Ana Konjuh, Lauren Davis, Oceane Dodin, Sorana Cirstea and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Though she battled through a low back injury over the course of the nearly three-hour final, Mladenovic found some of her best tennis with her back against the wall in the second set.

After the No.14 seed saw a 5-3 lead in the opening set slip away, the Frenchwoman battled Halep for every ball - using her exquisite feel and picture perfect dropshots - to edge the second set in a tiebreak and force a decider.

However, Halep would not be denied her second Madrids title, sliding through to deciding set to score a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2 victory.

As it happened: Halep defeats Mladenovic in Madrid final

WHAT THEY SAID:

After the match, Halep revealed some surprising news to WTA Insider: following a disappointing three-set defeat to eventual champion Johanna Konta at the Miami Open, Halep and coach Darren Cahill briefly split up.

The duo reconciled prior to the start of the tournament, but the period of adversity gave Halep a new perspective on and off the court. 

"I admire and respect Darren a lot. I think I have to thank him for making that decision after Miami, because it was a shock for me. I said that I have no other way but to change it," she told WTA Insider.

"After Miami, he stopped working with me because he was upset about that match. It wasn’t because I lost, but because of my attitude and him feeling like I gave up. That’s why I started to work hard on my mentality, and my psychology.

"Today, I showed it’s a new Simo, that I don’t give up anymore, even if I lose a close second set. It makes me proud that I was able to change this in such a short time. Now, I just want to work to keep it and make it stronger."

Mladenovic, who battled through a back injury at the late stages of the match for two hours, 44-minutes, could only take positives from the result.

"I tried to fight over the pain, continue to enjoy and fight till the end, give everything I had. We had an amazing final, and I don't want to say my lower back saying was the reason why I couldn't win that match," the Frenchwoman said.

"I was trying not to show anything, not to think about it. I tried to fight over it, continue to enjoy and fight until the end, give everything I had."

WHAT IT MEANS:

Already the first woman in tournament history to reach three finals, Halep became second player to win back-to-back Madrid after Serena Williams did so in 2012-13.

The Romanian extended what was a sparkling clay-court record to 22-3 in her past 25 matches, and vaulted into the Top 8 on the Porsche Race to Singapore with the victory, following a slow start to her 2017 season.

The victory in Madrid marked the start of Halep's ascent up two leaderboards in the 2017 season, as she ended up topping the Porsche Race to Singapore to qualify for the year-end BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and ended the year as WTA World No.1.