Defending champion Simona Halep will face surprise No. 14-seeded finalist Kristina Mladenovic of France in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open after both players advanced to the championship match in straight sets on Friday.
Halep handled unseeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 6-3, while Mladenovic upended No. 8 seed and former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 7-6(4).
“We know each other’s game really well,” Mladenovic said of her friend and frequent doubles partner Kuznetsova. “Today was kind of about tactic match, to surprise each other. There were times we both had, like, some bad moments because we would try too much to change our natural game.”
After losing her first two matches of the year at Hobart and the Australian Open, the Frenchwoman has rounded out her game over the last few months. This year she won St. Petersburg, and has been runner-up at Acapulco and last week in Stuttgart, falling to Laura Siegemund 7-6 in the third set.
Halep on Friday became the first woman in history to reach three Madrid finals.
“I cannot say that I expected this because it was a very tough beginning of the year,” the Romanian said. “So I’m really proud that I could manage all the situations, all the emotions. I’m here in the final.”
Mladenovic leads the career head-to-head with Halep 3-1. The Frenchwoman won their most recent meeting in straight sets in March at Indian Wells.
“Even though I’m leading in our head-to-head, we never played on clay,” Mladenovic said. “That’s going to be a brand-new challenge for me, especially that she’s more used to being in a finals of such a big events than me, especially here in Madrid.”
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