MADRID, Spain - Defending champion Simona Halep is back into the Mutua Madrid Open final after putting together a commanding victory over Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets.
Sevastova came into their semifinal clash without dropping a set in Madrid, but she didn’t have the answers against Halep’s all-court consistency, falling 6-2, 6-3.
The victory also earns the Romanian a spot in Mutua Madrid Open history; she’s the first woman to reach the final three times, having made the final in 2014 in addition to taking home the title last year.
“It's a very nice feeling [to be back in the final],” Halep told press afterwards. “I heard that I am the first player who does three finals in this tournament. It's nice to hear that.
“I cannot say that I expected this because it was a very tough beginning of the year. So I'm really proud that I could manage all the situations, all the emotions. I'm here in the final.”
The pair started off quite evenly matched under the roof at the Manolo Santana Stadium. Halep came into the match with a 3-2 edge in the pair’s tour-level head-to-head record. Two of those victories came on clay, including a 6-0, 6-0 beat down in the final of Bucharest last year, and a routine straight sets win in the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix earlier this season.
Halep weathered the Latvian’s variety – including her tricky backhand slice and concealed dropshots – to earn the first break at 3-2 after patiently drawing out the errors from her opponent and reeled off five games in a row to take the opening set.
Sevastova switched up her tactics in the second, peppering her game with more dropshots and kept Halep guessing. The gambit paid off, earning the Latvian her first break of the match and a 3-0 lead as the errors started to creep into Halep’s game.
But the joy was short-lived as the Romanian learned to read her game and responded in kind, foraying up to the net more and chasing down the short balls. She got right back on track and powered through six games in a row to see off the Latvian and make her way into the Madrid final after an hour and 13 minutes on court.
“I was very nervous today,” Halep admitted. “I don't know why. Maybe because I played semis again and
I really wanted to be in the finals. [Sevastova] a very tough opponent, very difficult to play against her. I knew that. Maybe that's [also] why I was a little bit nervous.
“I don't know. I couldn't breathe too easy. I was tired all match. I don't want to remember the feeling that I had in the court. But now everything’s okay.”
She’s set to play either No.8 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova or No.14 seed Kristina Mladenovic, who’ll take the court later today in the second Madrid semifinal.
“Doesn't matter against who I will play, both of them are very strong. This year they are playing very well. They have confidence. They have good game for the clay. It's going to be very tough one, very big battle.”