Simona Halep defeats Kristina Mladenovic to win Madrid Open

It is Halep's first title triumph since her victory in Montreal last July and it has taken her back into the top four of the world rankings and from No29 to No8 in the Road to Singapore standings.

But balance was restored as Sevastova quickly became frustrated with things as Halep settled, with Halep looking solid behind her first serve, the Latvian less so.

And make no mistake, Halep has fine clay credentials.

It was proving to be a tight contest, with the pair seemingly taking it in turn to break the other's serve, but Halep managed to pull away with three games on the spin to open up a lead.

The defending champion got off on the wrong foot in the second, and trailed 3-0 after surrendering her first service game.

And Halep completely broke Mladenovic's spirit in another epic 14-point game for a 5-2 lead before serving out for the championship to love. As soon as she had it was plain sailing for the defending champion.

"I'm not anxious about it", Nadal said. Kerber will need to find her rhythm before the French Open with players such as Simona Halep and Kristina Mladenovic surging. I knew that. Maybe that's why I was a little bit nervous. I couldn't breathe too easy. If he plays at a good level, he's going to win. I think I did pretty good in the gym over the last seven weeks. I don't want to remember the feeling that I had in the court.

The world number eight was pegged back at 1-1 by her opponent in the Spanish capital on Saturday evening before getting over the line.

Halep: Yeah, it was a great feeling on court, but now I'm really exhausted. She is developing her game in that way, that style, because she's not that tall, not that powerful.

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However, she composed herself for the start of the deciding set and was the dominant player throughout.

"She's moving really well".

It was her 21st clay win from the past 24 matches on the surface.

Considering the contraint under which Mladenovic was playing, she put in some fine statistics: 40 winners to 30 errors and, as one might expect, some great numbers around the net, winning 25 out of 30.

"I'm expecting a tough match".

"I can just be proud out there from what both of us showed". The Frenchwoman won their most recent meeting in straight sets in March at Indian Wells. "I've got to give credit to Simona for an awesome game today".

The road to the French Open is heating up on the WTA tour.

Facing her, however, is a player who may be without an official coach, but has been travelling with her family, and doing all the coach-type roles herself - scouting opponents, training, and so far it has been working for her. She broke for the set, 7-5.

Prediction: Halep to retain the title in straight sets.

  • Lawrence Cooper