The tennis sphere may have endured a five-month absence, but Simona Halep seamlessly shifted through the gears to win her 21st career title at the Prague Open. The world No.2 prevailed past Elise Mertens 6-2, 7-5 on Sunday to be hailed champion, before honouring a bet to take a plunge into the local river as the start of some soggy celebrations.
Crowned champion in Prague, Halep skips New York
World No.2 Simona Halep returned to action to lift back-to-back titles, adding to the trophy success in Dubai before the lockdown.
The 2018 Roland-Garros champion reeled off six straight games from 0-2 down to take the first set. Halep had lost the 2019 Doha final to world No.22 Mertens from a set and break advantage, with nerves and fatigue boosting the Belgian’s comeback claims this time.
Mertens managed to overhaul 2-4 in the second set to lead 5-4, however, Halep increased her intensity and scorched a series of returns to apply the pressure for the telling points.
Plenty of positives in Prague for Simona
"It was really tough to get back to official matches after such a long break," Halep told reporters. "The emotions after staying in the room for 10 days were not easy, but you know, I have to take the positives also, I was able to win the tournament which means a lot.”
Prior to the Covid-19 shutdown Halep had won in Dubai during a week bursting with tenacity, replicating that steel in the Czech Republic, the world No.2 earned perfect clay-court preparation on the road to Roland-Garros.
Coach Darren Cahill was impressed by Halep’s endeavour in Prague. “Amazing fighting qualities shown again in Prague all week Simo. A struggle in the early rounds but you hung in there and competed like champions do,” said the Australian on Instagram. “These types of wins are important as they are the foundation that you rely on, and build on. Well done Simona.”
Halep’s title triumph sends the 28-year-old fifth on the Roll of honour of active WTA title winners, behind Serena Williams (73), Venus Williams (49), Kim Clijsters (41) and Petra Kvitova (27).
No US Open hunt for Halep
"After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the US Open," tweeted Halep on Monday. I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision".
"And I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe. I know the United States Tennis Association and Women's Tennis Association have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament."
The Romanian, who’s best campaign in New York was the final four in 2015, will instead focus on another captivating clay campaign.
Brady buzzing after Lexington landmark
10 sets, five victories, Jennifer Brady put in a polished performance on home soil to lift a maiden WTA trophy.
The early buzz in Lexington, USA, surrounded the 31st instalment of sisters Serena and Venus Williams within the confines of the court, but 25-year-old Brady was ruthless all week to overshadow her compatriots.
An efficient 6-2, 6-4 victory over prodigy Coco Gauff sent Brady into her first Tour final, setting the tone for a straight-sets scoreline over Swiss Jil Teichmann.
"It feels great to win my first title," stated Brady, rewarded with a career-high ranking at world No.40. "There's only one winner each week, so walking away with the trophy for the first time, at home in America, I'm really happy."
Heading over to New York
This weekend the attention on the tennis Tours focuses in on Flushing Meadows.
With the US Open around the corner, the relocated 2020 Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati) is commencing at the same site at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.
Serena Williams, Madison Keys and Karolina Pliskova are past champions in the WTA field, alongside an exciting wildcard quintet.
Four Grand Slam champions and a Cincinnati local bolster the draw by invitation. Kim Clijsters, Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams will compete alongside American teenager Caty McNally.