DUBAI, UAE - Simona Halep defeated WTA Rising Star Karolina Pliskova in a very close two-setter to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which isn't just the milestone 10th WTA title of her career, but also the equal-biggest - it's her second Premier 5-level title after Doha a year ago.
The win also gives Halep a big push on both the WTA Rankings (No.4 back to No.3) and the Road To Singapore leaderboard - the year-long journey to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global (No.5 to No.3). She'll trail only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova on both lists.
After winning a relatively straightforward first set in 41 minutes, Halep was faced with an all-out war in the marathon 66-minute second set, battling back from an early break down at 2-0 and twice failing to serve out the match at 5-4 and 6-5 - she even got herself to match point in both those games.
The second set eventually went to a tie-break, where Pliskova even inched ahead, 4-3 - but the No.1-seeded Halep reeled off four points in a row to finally close the No.17 seed out, 6-4, 7-6(4).
"I'm very happy right now. I cannot explain in words how I feel," Halep said. "It's an amazing title for me. It's very important for my career. I'm really happy and just want to enjoy this moment.
"At the beginning of the tournament some people asked me if I felt pressure because I was the No.1 seed. I said no, because I wasn't thinking about it, and I just wanted to go on court and play match by match, because everyone would play really well here. And I played with big players like Makarova, Pliskova, Wozniacki - she was No.1 two years. So it's honestly just an amazing victory for me."
Pliskova had never even been to the quarters of a Premier 5 event before, let alone the final.
"I was trying to turn it around, but even if I won the second set, I don't know if I would have won the whole match," she said. "It would still have been hard because she doesn't give up on any point. She runs really, really well, and it's hard to kill the ball against her. She really gets everything back.
"I lost, so I'm not really happy right now, but obviously I'm happy for the week and for the last two or three weeks I had. I had so many matches here and beat great players - I'm not disappointed."
Halep got a hefty $456,000 paycheque for the victory. A self-confessed fan of shopping, the Romanian was asked in her post-match press conference what she might buy for herself for the victory.
"Good question. I have many things in my mind, but I'm not sure what I would choose," she said.
"Tonight it's tough to choose. Maybe tomorrow. For sure tomorrow I'm going to the mall for a little bit to choose something, but not very big. When I go home, I will look, I think, for a house."
? Dubai Tennis Champs (@DDFTennis) February 21, 2015