"She played better tennis tonight." Simona Halep reflects on her loss to Kiki Bertens in the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open final.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
May 11, 2019

MADRID, Spain - Simona Halep will do her best to set aside her disappointment after coming up short in the Mutua Madrid Open final. The two-time champion battled hard but fell to Kiki Bertens 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday's final. 

"I think she played better tennis tonight," Halep told reporters after the match. "She deserved to win the match definitely. 

"About my game, I think I played wrong, and I'm upset about that. But I'm not going to make a drama. I'm just thinking for the next one, when I will play against her, to change some things. 

"I played like a stupid today, everything that she liked," a frustrated Halep said. "But it's happening sometimes and I can take all the positives from this week.

Halep arrived to Madrid fighting a cold that had her on a treatment of regular antibiotics throughout the week, but the reigning Roland Garros champion still found a supreme level on her favorite surface to make her fourth Madrid final before running into an unstoppable Bertens. 

"I couldn't believe at the beginning I would be in the final, so I will just calm down, I will analyze more and I will be nicer to me because I don't deserve to be very hard [on myself].

"It was a good match from her. And she deserved to win the title because she played the whole week really good tennis. So, it was a good week."

Halep would not elaborate on why her gameplan was wrong against Bertens, but after losing six straight games from 4-2 up in the first set, the former No.1 began to make inroads. She stepped up her aggression and court positioning to take more time away from Bertens, and did better to cut off Bertens' angled balls to expose her down the line. 

But the Dutchwoman came up with all the answers in the tight moments, finding big first serves to fend off Halep's return pressure in the final games. Perhaps the turning point of the second set came with Bertens serving at 4-3, 15-30. With Halep scrambling, Bertens hit a wild overhead at the net that was set to fly into the back fence to give Halep double-break point to get back on serve. Instead, the ball hit a sprinting Halep before it bounced, giving Bertens the point. 

"Yes, it was too late [when I began to find solutions] and I couldn't return her serve. She served really well. 

"And some balls, I cannot explain even now how that ball touched me and many lines. So as you see, I'm upset about these things," she said with a laugh. 

"But I have just to take it like it is and to look forward because this week I showed myself that my game is there and I'm able to do good things."

Halep and Bertens are the two best clay-courters on tour, but each plays their game in different ways. Halep says she struggled with Bertens' heavy high balls and her ability to open up the court. 

"I think the higher ball that she plays and also the angles, she goes very well with the forehand cross," Halep said. "And this surface and this place I think is good for her because it's altitude and the ball is going faster. 

"So I think this tournament fits her and she plays her best tennis here."

But with the level she has shown throughout the clay season, tallying two good wins at Fed Cup and playing dominant tennis to make her second final of the season, Halep finds herself in good stead as she readies for her title defense in Paris in two weeks. 

"Well, I have no idea how it will be in the next weeks, but in this moment, I'm happy with my game, I'm happy that I could go through this week," Halep said. "It was a tough week. I'm confident, so we will see. 

"I like Rome. I like Paris. But you never know with tennis, so I'm ready for anything."