WTA Tour

Halep comeback floors Wozniacki

2015-02-20 21:52
Simona Halep (AFP)

Dubai - Simona Halep, the top-seeded Romanian who looked in danger of a semi-final exit, produced a marvellous recovery to reach the final of the Dubai Open, coming from a set down to overcome Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep struck the ball with increasing flair and vigour against an opponent who won the title and played five semi-finals here, and once she had found her rhythm and timing she proved unstoppable as she accelerated to an impressive 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 win.

Former world number one Wozniacki, responded positively to the stream of fine ground strokes which increasingly penetrated her mobile defences, trying to take the attack to her gifted opponent in the final set, and creating some fine rallies.

But she only briefly seemed likely to stem the flow against her, when she had Halep 15-40 down in the fifth game. Once the favourite had escaped from that, she hit the ball better, egged on by a surprisingly large and noisy band of supporters

Wozniacki had struggled hard with a virus all week, and probably exceeded expectations in surviving so long, later explaining that the "air of the balloon just kind of went off."

Halep by contrast improved day by day, something bolstered by another tenacious recovery, against Ekaterina Makarova, the Russian who was serving for the match against her yesterday.

"At the beginning of the tournament it was a little bit tough for me, because I came from Fed Cup, and there it was a bad week for me," Halep said.

"But coming here I had two, three days relaxing just and hitting the ball and I found my rhythm, found my game. Now I'm really happy that I play again a final this year," she added, apparently a reference to her capture of last year's title in Doha, a little further west along the Gulf coast.

She will face a very different type of opponent in Saturday's final. Instead of the athletic Wozniacki she plays Karolina Pliskova, the tall, steep-serving 22-year-old from Prague who last month became the youngest player currently in the top 20, and who reached the biggest final of her career so far with her third outstanding win.

Having already ousted two seeded players Pliskova followed it with a nerve-shredding 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Garbine Muguruza, an elegantly gifted 21-year-old from Barcelona, snatching a memorable victory just as her chances seemed to be fading.

Pliskova always had the more dangerous serve, and her 13 aces extended her year's total to 145, the most on the WTA Tour so far this year. But there were phases near the end when it seemed that might not be enough.

She had to save two break points at 3-4 in the final set, holding serve with the help of a video review which showed she had landed another ace, and slipped to love-40 when she was trying to close the match out at 6-5.

But Pliskova was prepared to gamble on hitting flat and hard, something which paid off as she clawed back four points in a row, and six out of seven, to close the match out.

The outcome went against the trend in the second half of the final set when Muguruza, who had beaten three seeds herself, possessed the more supple and flexible game, giving her more options in a tricky wind.

But Pliskova has surprised many people including herself. The Czech had arrived so tired at the start of the week she even wondered whether she might have to withdraw.

"I was just thinking, okay, I will just go on the court, try, and maybe I will lose, but I will not be mad at all," she said. "But then I won - and I'm still winning."


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