Simona Halep outlasts determined Mladenovic to retain Madrid title

Posted May 14, 2017

She is already being touted as one of the favourites for this year's French Open.

Simona Halep defended her Madrid Open title by edging out Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday in a thrilling near three-hour final 7-5, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2. If he plays at a good level, he's going to win.

Nastase's presence overshadowed a high quality match in which France's Mladenovic played a huge part. She will still be World No. 14 by next Monday (+3 than last week).

She was rewarded for her persistence when Mladenovic produced her first double fault of the match on the way to being broken, showing signs of discomfort from the back problem she carried in the final as she netted to surrender the first set.

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Mladenovic, ranked 17, will seek to add to the maiden WTA Tour triumph she enjoyed in St Petersburg in February.

In the men's Madrid Masters, Rafael Nadal set up a semifinal with Novak Djokovic after withstanding a tough challenge from David Goffin 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Friday. Given this result, plus the ability of Simone to play in Madrid, she is a favorite and the upcoming semi-final.

Unseeded Sevastova was playing her first semi-final at premier mandatory level, the grade immediately below grand slam tournaments. However, the Croat retired at the end of the second set, sending Mladenovic through into the second round. In the quarterfinals of the Spanish tournament, Simone did not notice the resistance of the American Vandervage 6: 1, 6: 1. In the third round, the 23-year-old thrashed her compatriot Oceane Dodin, 6-2, 6-1 in an all-French affair.

But balance was restored as Sevastova quickly became frustrated with things as Halep settled, with Halep looking solid behind her first serve, the Latvian less so.

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The Romanian went up an early break in the second but Mladenovic pegged her back and eventually ran away with the set in the tiebreak.

"We know each other's game really well", Mladenovic said of her friend and frequent doubles partner Kuznetsova.

In the end a tense seventh game culminated in defending champion Halep making the most of her third break point and getting the job done, despite her opponent's best efforts.

Halep gained her first victory over Mladenovic in the second round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati in 2015 in three tight sets.

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"I think it was a great final".