Former World No.1 Simona Halep of Romania booked a spot in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 final with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen.
It took Halep just a single week in 2022 to guarantee her 13th consecutive season where she has reached a WTA singles final. Halep's first final came in 2010, and she has not missed a year without at least one appearance in a championship match since.
Simona says: "I'm really happy that I can play the final for the first tournament of the year," Halep told the press, after her win. "I'm feeling good, and I'm happy with the way I played."
"I'm really happy with the way I bounced back," said Halep, who struggled past Viktorija Golubic in a three-set quarterfinal on Friday. "It's always tough, first tournament of the year, few matches played, tough matches. Yesterday was really tough, and today I felt like I played much better, I served much better, and that means physically I'm in a good spot."
Starting the year off right 💪@Simona_Halep cruises past Qinwen Zheng 6-3 6-2 to book a meeting with Veronika Kudermetova in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 final. #MelbourneTennis pic.twitter.com/8eEscZ50W9— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 8, 2022
Fast facts: Zheng, aged 19 and ranked No.126, has risen up the WTA ladder of late, having been ranked No.287 one year ago. Zheng reached her first WTA singles quarterfinal and semifinal this week as a qualifier, beating former World No.2 Vera Zvonareva and former No.20 Ana Konjuh along the way.
Meanwhile, Halep is currently ranked No.20 after an injury-plagued 2021, which is the lowest she has been ranked at the start of a season since 2013, when she was No.47. But Halep has been going deep at events again since the end of last season. This is the third straight tournament where she has reached the semifinals or better.
Halep's sturdy form continued as the two-time Grand Slam champion had enough to quell the challenge from Zheng and end the teenager's run after an hour and 24 minutes of play. Halep was never broken during the match and claimed two-thirds of points when returning the Zheng second serve.
Match moments: Halep kicked off the affair with a break of service and eased through the set from there, successfully fending off the two break points she faced in the opener. Halep broke again in the final game of the opening set, using her forehand to force a Zheng error long on her first set point.
In the second set, Zheng went for big returns and held three break points in the opening game, but Halep survived that game. The No.2 seed took command for good when she broke Zheng for 3-1, helped along by a double fault on break point. Halep closed out the match at 5-2 with her fourth break of the day.
Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took. Thank you for all the love this past week ❤️ I’ll try to rest up and I’ll see you soon!— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 8, 2022
No.3 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia will face Halep in the final. Kudermetova was slated to face No.1 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan in the nightcap semifinal, but former World No.1 Osaka withdrew from their clash due to an abdominal injury.
Kudermetova is now into her third career WTA singles final. The World No.31 made her first WTA singles final one year ago in Abu Dhabi, then earned her first WTA singles title at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston in April.