DOHA, Qatar - Top seed Simona Halep was pushed to the brink in both sets of her hard-fought battle against Julia Goerges, emerging victorious after just under two hours to reach the semifinals at the Qatar Total Open.
Playing in her first tournament with new coach Thierry Van Cleemput, Halep came into Doha looking to continue the positive momentum she created in Fed Cup, where she led Romania to a historic upset over the decorated Czech Republic squad.
Her Doha opener against Lesia Tsurenko was a relatively smooth 6-2, 6-3 victory, but No.9 Julia Goerges had her on the ropes for most of their two-hour battle at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex.
Halep saw a 4-0 lead come and go in the first set as Georges came back to force a tiebreak before having to recover from a break down herself in the second - but she found a way to close it out in straight sets, winning 7-6(3), 7-6(6).
“I didn't think about a third set,” Halep told press after the match. “I just wanted to fight till the end of the second set.
“So I didn't give up, and I didn't lose my confidence, even if I was set points down. I tried just to stay there, focused, to stay strong on my legs, because she's hitting the ball really strong and it's never easy to return.
“I'm really proud that I could stay strong mentally and also that I was fighting for every single shot.”
The Romanian made a flawless start, dropping just three points total en route to building up a double-break 3-0 lead. She kept the big Goerges serve in check, and ripped her returns.
Goerges halted Halep’s momentum with a strong service game and finally got on the scoreboard at 4-1 - and then used the opening to springboard a comeback effort, turning around a 0-40 deficit in the next game to notch her first break of the match.
The pair continued to play tug of war for the set, with Goerges rising in confidence as the match wore on and pouncing on the vulnerable Halep second serves. Halep pushed Goerges around the court, earning two set points at 5-3, but the German held firm to deny her the chance.
But with Halep serving for the set at 5-4, she started showing signs of nerves as Goerges fought her way into the game - before surrendering the break with a double fault. Despite all of Goerges’ best efforts during the set, Halep raised her level to outplay her in the tiebreak, forcing the errors and reeling off five points in a row to win 7-6(1).
Goerges continued her positive momentum in the second second, having Halep under pressure from the first game and creating break points before finally getting ahead 3-1. She held the advantage despite the former World No.1’s every effort to level the score, dodging break points at 4-2 and marching toward the finish line.
But just as she was serving out the set, Halep struck back, taking advantage of a timid service game from Goerges to break to love, leveling the score at 5-5. The pair were once again locked in a tiebreak - with the German creating two set points to try and extend her stay in the match - but it was Halep who fought her way through, claiming the victory in two hours and three minutes.
Up next for Halep, she’ll take on No.4 seed Elina Svitolina, who eased past Karolina Muchova to reach the final four of the Qatar Total Open, 6-4, 6-2.
It’ll be a challenging matchup for Halep, who trails Svitolina 1-4 in the pair’s head-to-head record. Halep defeated Svitolina in three tough sets on her way to the 2017 French Open final, but Svitolina scored wins at Rome in 2017 and 2018, at the 2017 Rogers Cup, and at the 2017 WTA Finals.
“It's been tough against her,” Halep admitted. “We played two finals in Rome, and I lost them. I was very upset after those matches, because I gave up and I didn't play my best tennis.
“Now I have the chance to change that. I have the chance to fight till the end and for every ball. Tomorrow I believe in my chance. I believe that I have a good level of tennis in this moment, and I have to believe that I can win. So I will go there tomorrow, and I will give everything.”