Competing for the first time since February, world no. 2 Simona Halep is through to her 38th WTA final in Prague, beating Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6, 6-3. Simona grabbed the seventh win from as many encounters against the compatriot, not playing on the level from the previous match but doing enough to overcome tired rival.
Irina-Camelia had to finish her quarter-final clash earlier on Friday, battling hard in the opener against Simona before losing ground. Simona was 5-4 down, pulling the break back in the 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 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 send 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. Like two games earlier, Irina-Camelia failed to seize her opportunity, getting broken and allowing Simona to reach a 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 the lead.
Out of sudden, Irina-Camelia grabbed a break in game six to level the score, moving 40-15 up on serve before Halep won four straight points for a pivotal break in that seventh game. The Wimbledon champion held at 15 with a backhand winner to confirm the break, sealing the deal with another one at 5-3.
Simona Halep is through to the final in Prague.
"I didn't play my best tennis but also she was tired, so in my opinion, it was a good one. I'm thrilled that I could win it. It's always tough to play against Irina-Camelia; she's a great player.
She was playing well at that point and was kind of dominating the match. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad to play long matches because you get the rhythm or get tired. I was strong enough to come back in the first set, and...
when she got the medical timeout, it was good for me to calm down. I knew that she was tired; she played so many hours, so many sets these two days, and I knew that if I stayed stronger, I had a better chance to come back and win.
She was probably a bit more tired than me in the second set, but I've also had some tough matches at the beginning. It's a nice feeling to reach the final in the comeback tournament. I'm going to give my best because I really want to win it, but it's never easy.
I'll try to recover until tomorrow and enjoy that I'm going to play another final. I'm confident that I can play good tennis against Mertens, but she's a very tough opponent. I'm trying to fight, to keep fighting until the end and never give up," Simona Halep said.