WTA Prague: Simona Halep beats Elise Mertens for a perfect comeback



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WTA Prague: Simona Halep beats Elise Mertens for a perfect comeback

World no. 2 Simona Halep made a winning return following the coronavirus outbreak, claiming the 21st WTA title in Prague. The Romanian wasn't at her best throughout the week, but no one could expect that after staying away from the court for more than five months.

Struggling in two matches, Simona delivered five wins to secure the trophy, the second consecutive after Dubai in February. In the final, Halep took down the 3rd seed Elise Mertens 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and 33 minutes, defeating the Belgian for the fourth time in five encounters.

The Romanian was the favorite on clay, toppling Mertens in Madrid and Paris in 2018 and repeating that today after some troubles in set number two. There were 25 break chances up for grabs and the Romanian played on a higher level when it mattered the most, defending seven out of ten break points and stealing 56% of the return points, enough for six breaks that carried her over the top.

Elise placed a backhand down the line winner in the first game for a strong start, delivering a break in the next to forge a 2-0 advantage. Halep broke back at love in game three, securing another return game at 2-2 with a backhand down the line winner.

Serving to confirm the lead, Simona fended off four break chances in game six ahead another long game on Mertens' serve. The Belgian got broken despite saving five break points, falling 5-2 behind and allowing Simona to convert the third set point in the next game with a service winner and six straight games she grabbed.

With the momentum on her side, Halep earned the fourth consecutive break at the beginning of the second set, ending her streak in game two following a loose backhand that brought Mertens back to the positive side of the scoreboard.

Simona Halep defeated Elise Mertens for the 21st WTA title.

The Romanian was up and running again at 2-2 when Elise hit a double fault, opening a 4-2 lead before the Belgian pulled the break back in game eight with a backhand winner.

Elise fended off a break chance in the ninth game to gain a 5-4 lead, giving her best to stay in touch but suffering another break at 5-5 after netting a forehand. Serving for the title in the 12th game, Halep held at 15 to cross the finish line, wrapping up the week with her second title of the season and waiting for Monday to announce her US Open plans.

In her previous tournaments of the season, Simona was the semi-finalist at the Australian Open before winning the title in Dubai, standing on two trophies in 2020 so far.