It took until May, but it’s something that world No. 1 Serena Williams hasn’t even done yet this year.
Simona Halep won her first title of the year over the weekend in Madrid, where the No. 6 seed beat unseeded Dominika Cibukova 6-2, 6-4, bettering her 2014 runner-up appearance.
“I saw always that it’s a special tournament because of Mr. [Ion] Tiriac, because of many Romanians that are coming here. I feel like home,” Halep said. “It’s a special feeling that many Romanians are coming to support me. I see many flags in the crowd. It means a lot.”
Halep entered Madrid with a desire to simply get some matches under her belt, not overflowing with confidence after some recent health issues. But in the final she broke early in both sets and held off any comeback attempts from the Slovak, controlling points from the forehand wing.
“I expected a tough match today,” said Halep, who was 1-3 career against Cibulkova entering the final. “I thought that I would struggle a little bit with her shots, but I was very strong on my legs and could block. I could make my game, I can say.”
Halep dropped only one set during the tournament and fed Aussie Sam Stosur a bagel in the semifinals.
Cibulkova was appearing in her third final of the year after winning Katowice and finishing runner-up at Acapulco.
“I just want to get some rest and prepare for Roland Garros,” said Cibulkova who fell to 5-9 in career finals. “Because my game on clay really came together. I know what to do. I would [have played a] bit more aggressive from the beginning. But she was playing really well, so wasn’t like I played bad…”
Halep improved to 12-8 in career finals, and moves back into the WTA Top 5. It was the fourth career title on clay for the former French Open finalist.
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