Halep ready for Dubai Duty Free Tennis C’ships title defence - GulfToday

Halep ready for Dubai Duty Free Tennis C’ships title defence


Simona Halep

Romanian superstar Simona Halep is eagerly counting down the days to when she can begin the defence of her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title.

The prestigious WTA1000 tournament, which will start on March 7, is one of the most popular on the worldwide tour, and the reigning champion will be competing for the eighth time. It is clearly a week she is looking forward to.

“I like the people. The weather. The court I also like. Just everything. I feel very comfortable here,” she said during her run to the 2020 title.

A year ago the top seed successfully emerged from one of the toughest weeks of her career to add to her 2015 Dubai title, saving a match point in her opening match against Ons Jabeur, fighting back from a set down to defeat Aryna Sabalenka and then producing a near flawless performance against Jennifer Brady in the semi-finals, committing just eight unforced errors, before bringing her week to a thrilling conclusion.

Her 3-6 6-3 7-6(5) victory over Elena Rybakina was arguably the most dramatic final in the history of the women’s event and a fitting end to the 20th anniversary celebrations of the tournament hosting the WTA Tour.

“She fought till the end,” said a relieved Halep after her epic battle. “She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I wanted it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end.”

The pandemic, which interrupted the season, presented many challenges and disruption to Halep’s schedule as numerous tournaments were cancelled. She was resilient though, and followed up her impressive semi-final appearance at the Australian Open and the winning of her second Dubai crown by claiming further titles in her next two events.

First came victory in Prague, and then after beating Garbine Muguruza in the Rome semi-finals she was awarded the title when Karolina Pliskova was forced to retire during the final. It was Halep’s first title there after she had also contested the 2017 and 2018 finals.

Having made her Top 10 debut in January 2014, in each of her last seven seasons Halep has reached the No.1 or No.2 ranking and posted a Top 5 finish. Her streak of seven Top 5 finishes is the longest since Steffi Graf’s 11 consecutive seasons from 1986-1996. In all, she holds 22 singles titles including the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon crowns, and she has reached a further 17 finals, including two at the French Open and one Australian Open.

Halep is striving for another perfect week in Dubai as she bids to become only the third player to win the Dubai Duty Free WTA event three times, following the four titles claimed by Justin Henin in 2003-4 and 2006-7 and the three won by Venus Williams 2009-10 and 2014. Her 2021 season has so far seen her reach the quarter-finals of the Gippsland Trophy and the Australian Open.

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