Halep in top form to set up Rybakina final showdown
February 21 2020 11:51 PM
Romania’s Simona Halep in action during her semi-final against Jennifer Brady of the US in Dubai yesterday. (Reuters)


Simona Halep enjoyed a “fun” day on court yesterday as she produced a near-flawless performance against Jennifer Brady to reach her first Dubai final since 2015.
The Romanian top seed had to grind through two brutal three-setters en route to the semi-finals but enjoyed a routine 6-2, 6-0, 62-minute victory over the 52nd-ranked Brady to set up a final showdown with an in-form Elena Rybakina.
“It’s fun when you feel the ball and when you can do anything you want. Today it was one of those days, I could open the court easy,” explained the 28-year-old Halep.
“I felt like every time I hit the ball I feel it. Yeah, it looks really, really nice.”
Brady was competing in her seventh match in as many days, having battled through three rounds of qualifying before her main draw journey to the semi-finals.
Halep saved the only two break points she faced during the match and broke the Brady serve five times.
“I played the best match since I came here,” admitted Halep, who this week is enjoying her 317th consecutive week inside the top 10 — the 10th-longest streak in WTA history.
Her reward is a first career meeting against Rybakina, who reached a remarkable fourth final this year after coming through a gruelling clash with number eight seed Petra Martic earlier.
The 20-year-old Rybakina has made the final in four of the five tournaments she contested so far in 2020 and will be bidding for a second title of the year when she takes on two-time major champion Halep.
“It’s amazing what she’s done already this year. I saw her a little bit during some matches. But I don’t have the feeling how she’s playing because I think we never played together,” said Halep of Rybakina, who was ranked 192nd this time last year and is now up to 19 in the world.
“She has a big serve. I have to pay attention on my return and to be like today: confident, aggressive if there is a chance, just fighting. It’s the best thing to do now.”
Rybakina fought back from 1-3 down in the opening set, and 1-4 down in the second, to claim a hard-fought 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Martic in two hours and 12 minutes.
Martic held a set point in each set but couldn’t convert as the Russian-born Kazakh continues to prove she is the player to beat on the women’s tour at the moment.
“It’s amazing, I just focused on every point because it was a really tough match. She played really good, I just tried to do my best,” said Rybakina, who is making her tournament debut and arrived late in Dubai after playing the final in St Petersburg last Sunday.
“I don’t know [how I’m finding the energy], I just want to win. My coach, he helps me a lot. I had nothing to lose this tournament but
today of course it’s tennis and I wanted to win so much. Even when I was down 3-0, I wanted to win this set.”
Rybakina now owns a tour-leading 19 victories this season, against just three losses, and tops the ace leader board with 132 aces struck in 22 matches.
“Of course I didn’t even think about this. I had an unbelievable year in 2019 and about this year, I was just trying to do maybe the same, but I did even better and hopefully I can keep going like this,” she added.

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