Simona Halep’s name is now etched in the history of the Mutua Madrid Open as she completed a successful defence of the title she claimed last year. The Romanian kept her crown to continue her reign in the Caja Mágica, beating French player Kristina Mladenovic in a passionate final that lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes and was decided in three sets 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2.
The Romanian had played solid tennis all week, but she struggled early on in the final and was broken on her first serve. In the opening games of the match she looked uncomfortable on court and although she did not play well early on, she managed to break her opponent’s serve at a time where there was nothing between the two players on court. On the other side of the net, Mladenovic pressured the Romanian and was serving at 5-4 for the first set. However, the defending champion rescued herself to stay alive and started playing her best tennis again, taking the last four games of the set to turn the match on its head.
The champion was back on top and she started the second set in the same way she finished the first, winning on her serve and breaking her opponent’s. She had now won six games on the trot. But Mladenovic was not about to give up easily and she broke back to level the set. From this point on, both players held their serves to take the second to a tiebreak, which was equally well contested. This time though, it was the French player who took the spoils to force a decider.
The defending champion, who had lost three of her previous four clashes with Mladenovic, stepped up to the plate and was the more confident of the two at key moments. She held her serve and broke her opponent’s twice to lift the trophy that bears the name of her countryman, Ion Tiriac, for the second time in the Manolo Santana Stadium.
Halep now has 15 titles under her belt, three of them Premier Mandatory trophies, of which this is her first this season. She also becomes the first player to successfully defend her title in Madrid since Serena Williams did so, and the most successful player in the tournament’s history, with two titles and the runner-up trophy she collected in 2014 when she lost to Maria Sharapova. “I am very happy to have defended the title, it means a lot to me and gives me confidence for the next big tournaments”, explained a radiant Halep in her press conference. Immediately after the match, she announced on court: “Next year I will be back to defend it”.