Simona Halep shakes off Kristina Mladenovic in an entertaining Madrid Open final, defending her title with a 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-2 victory.
Halep, playing her third Madrid final in four years, held off a Mladenovic fightback to win 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2.
To her credit, Mladenovic showed huge determination to play through the pain barrier, breaking back and the second set remained on serve after that. Halep hit an unforced error in the first point, Mladenovic was up 3-0, then 4-2 and on 5-4 she hit an incredible running drop shot, then a forehand victor on 6-5. But she had expended most of her energy and could not keep up with Halep, who served out the match in style by winning the game to love.
Joining them in the other semi-final in the bottom half are Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens and Latvian wildcard Anastasija Sevastova after both advanced in straight sets. From those two close encounters, Halep went to another level in her quarterfinal and semifinal matches.
She next faces Mladenovic, who beat Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to reach her third final of the season. Even though I'm leading in our head-to-head, we never played on clay, I think.
In a step from the finals in the tournament in Madrid, the 25-year-old Romanian Simone Halep will argue for a ticket to the final with 27-year-old Anastasia Sevastova from Latvia. Can Mladenovic make it three out of three? or will Halep resume normality?