Playing her first tournament since the coronavirus break, world no. 2 Simona Halep is through to her 38th final in Prague, defeating Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6, 6-3. It was the seventh victory from as many encounters against the compatriot for Halep, using the fact Irina-Camelia had to finish her quarter-final clash earlier today and prevailing in a tight opener to remain on the title course.
Unlike yesterday against Magdalena Frech, Simona wasn't at her best today, trailing 5-4 and pulling the break back in the very last moment before stealing the opener in the tie break. Begu broke the better-ranked rival four times from ten opportunities, needed a couple of breaks more after suffering six breaks from as many chances offered to Simona, who sealed the deal with three straight games at 3-3 in set number two.
Halep made a shaky start with a couple of double faults, getting broken at love in game three to push Begu in front. A lucky net cord secured the break back for Simona a few minutes later, playing another loose service game to fall 4-3 behind.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Irina-Camelia lost serve following a backhand down the line winner from Halep, who was on the verge of losing the set after the third break for Begu at 5-5. Just like two games earlier, Irina-Camelia failed to seize her chance, getting broken to keep Simona in ahead of the tie break.
With momentum on her side, Halep rattled off six straight points in the breaker, sealing it with an ace at 6-2 for a massive boost. Playing on a high level in those moments, Halep broke at the beginning of the second set to extend her advantage.
Out of sudden, Irina-Cameli grabbed a break in game six when Simona sprayed a backhand mistake, opening a 40-15 lead on serve before Halep won four straight points for a pivotal break. The Wimbledon champion held at 15 with a backhand winner to confirm the break, moving over the top with a break at love in game nine to advance into the final.
There, she will meet the 3rd seed Elise Mertens who prevailed against a former finalist Kristyna Pliskova 7-5, 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes. The Belgian will compete in the seventh WTA final, fending off seven out of eight break chances and securing two breaks from nine opportunities to seal the deal in straight sets.
Elise grabbed a break in the first game to forge a 5-3 advantage, getting broke while serving for the set at 5-4 before clinching the last two games for a 7-5. In set number two, they fended off all nine break chances to reach a tie break, with Pliskova opening a 4-1 advantage.
Remaining focused, Mertens rattled off six straight points to march over the finish line, seeking the first WTA title since Doha last year.