Simona Halep fought her way back from a set down to deny feisty Elena Rybakina 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in the Dubai final Saturday night.
The 2015 champion opened down an early break at 4-2 in the first. In the second, Halep saved an early break point then got into gear going up 4-1.
The decider would change the momentum again with the 20-year-old grabbing the early break 3-1. Halep got back into back failed to serve it out at 6-5, eventually settling on the breaker for her 20th career title.
“It feels great that I could win it,” Halep said. “Actually, it was amazing. She fought till the end. She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I want it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end.
“It’s very special to be in 2020, 20th anniversary of this tournament, 20th title,” she added. “It’s pretty special. I just want to enjoy it. It’s very, very beautiful.”
Just two months into the year, the young Kazakh has singled she’s one to watch.
“She’s strong,” Halep said of Rybakina. “She has a huge serve. She’s tall. She has power. I think she’s really good to get into the top 10 very soon.”
“Moving well, even if she’s very tall,” she said. “Her ball doesn’t jump that much. It’s really tough to find the length of the ball. The shot, cross backhand, is amazing. She can go also down the line. I think she’s at the highest confidence level. I think everything she hits, it’s really good now.”
Rybakina has now made the finals in four of five events this year. And she’s projected to climb to a new career-high No. 17 in the next WTA ranking.
In three of Halep’s four wins this week, she came from a set down.
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