DUBAI, UAE -- No.1 seed Simona Halep of Romania advanced to her first final of the year on Friday night, ending the run of American qualifier Jennifer Brady, 6-2, 6-0, in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
"It felt much better than previous matches," Halep said, during her post-match press conference. "I played really well. Everything went in my side. I felt the ball great. I feel like I played the best match since I came here."
2015 Dubai champion Halep had won her two previous matches against Brady, but both of those encounters had been challenges, including a first-round tussle at the Australian Open last month. In Dubai, though, the top seed had her most straightforward encounter against the rising American, collecting the victory after just 62 minutes of play.
"It's always a nice opportunity and privilege to play the last match of the tournament," said Halep. "I play for another trophy, so I'm relaxed. I'm focused. I really want it."
The World No.2 was sublime on the day, winning over three-quarters of points on her first serve, and facing only two break points in the tilt, both of which she saved with aplomb.
In their clash, Halep had 16 winners to just eight unforced errors, while Brady, who had beaten three consecutive Top 20 players during her stirring run to the semifinals, was undone by 14 unforced errors, twice her winner total.
"It's fun when you feel the ball and when you can do anything you want," said Halep. "Today it was one of those days, I could open the court easy. I felt like every time I hit the ball, I feel it."
Halep got off to a flying start when she turned around the first game of the match, prolonging rallies to force errors from Brady and swiping a break of service after the qualifier had game points. The American cracked a forehand winner down the line to grab two break points in the following game, but Halep held firm and eked out the hold to consolidate for 2-0.
The depth of shot from the Romanian was tremendous in the opening frame, and she extended her lead with a second break, eventually holding a 5-1 lead. Brady stopped Halep’s run and held on for 5-2 via a backhand winner, but the top seed closed out the set in the next game, forcing a netted return on her first set point.
Halep’s momentum continued unabated in the second set. The Romanian kept on coming out on top in bruising rallies more often than not, and she earned a break in the opening game once more. After closing out a protracted game with an ace to reach 2-0, Halep notched another service break, firing a forehand winner on her third break point of that game to attain a 3-0 lead.
A stellar error-forcing backhand return would give Halep a third break of the set and a 5-0 lead, as the end to Brady’s incredible Dubai showing drew near. The American got to 30-30 in the following game, but Halep claimed a match point when a backhand dribbled over the netcord for an unexpected winner. After a backhand miscue by Brady, Halep clinched her seventh game in a row to move into the final.
Halep will now take on Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the final. 20-year-old Rybakina booked a spot in her staggering fourth final of the young season, grinding past No.8 seed Petra Martic of Croatia in two tiebreak sets in the earlier semifinal.
"It's amazing what [Rybakina's] done already this year," Halep stated. "I saw her a little bit during some matches."
"She has a big serve," Halep continued, looking forward to the final. "I have to pay attention on my return and to be like today: confident, aggressive if there is a chance, just fighting. It's the best thing to do now."