No. 3 seed Simona Halep successfully defended her Mutua Madrid Open title on Saturday, in the championship match defeating France’s Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2.
“I feel great that I could defend this title,” Halep said. “It means a lot because it’s very big and gives me confidence for the bigger tournaments…I [mentally] started pretty bad this year. Now I’m back with the confidence.”
The bad start almost caused a split between Halep and her coach Darren Cahill, who had grown tired of the Romanian’s attitude, and her giving up during matches.
Halep’s mettle was tested when, instead of closing it out in straight sets, an injured Mladenovic was still able to win the second-set tiebreak and force a third set.
“I’m very proud that after I lost the tiebreak, which before I had trouble losing the second set in the tiebreak, I came back stronger on court in the third set,” Halep said. “I kept the rhythm very high, the level. I just tried to stay positive and just playing till the end of the match, till the last point. I did it well.”
Despite being hampered by a back injury, Mladenovic fought through two sets before finally succumbing in the third.
“I tried to fight over the pain, continue to enjoy and fight till the end, give everything I had,” she said. “We had an amazing final, and I don’t want to say my lower back saying was the reason why I couldn’t win that match.”
Halep’s first title of the year lifts her to 15-8 in career finals and 1-0 in 2017. Mladenovic fell to 1-2 in 2017 finals and 1-4 career.
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