Halep wins Rome crown after Pliskova retires

ROME • Top seed Simona Halep claimed the Italian Open in Rome for the first time yesterday after second seed Karolina Pliskova retired from the final owing to injury when she was down 6-0, 2-1.

Halep raced into a 5-0 lead in the opening set, breaking the defending champion three times and also saved three break points at 0-40 down in the fourth game.

The Romanian, who shook off a hard fall in the second game, was at her aggressive and disciplined best while Pliskova looked sluggish with her on-court movement, failing to hit a single winner as she was whitewashed in 20 minutes.

Halep has now extended her winning streak this season to 14 victories.

The 28-year-old said to Pliskova after the match: "It's not the way we want to finish a tournament, in the final, you played great this week.

"I wish you a fast recovery and wish you good luck at the French Open, maybe we will meet again there in the final."

World No. 2 Halep was competing in her third Rome WTA final, having finished runner-up in 2017 and 2018 on the clay at the Foro Italico.

The Wimbledon champion's 22nd career title comes just a week before the start of the French Open, which she won in 2018.

She will also be the top seed at Roland Garros in the absence of world No. 1 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty, who has decided against travelling from Australia because of coronavirus concerns.

Victory also gave Halep her third consecutive title of the year after wins in Dubai before the Covid-19 hiatus and Prague last month.

Before Pliskova's retirement, the limited number of fans allowed at centre court urged her to make it a contest, applauding the rare points she got on the scoreboard, and it seemed to work as the second set started with the pair breaking each other.

Simona Halep hitting a forehand against Karolina Pliskova in the Italian Open yesterday. The final lasted 31 minutes.
Simona Halep hitting a forehand against Karolina Pliskova in the Italian Open yesterday. The final lasted 31 minutes. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

However, the Czech was clearly struggling with an injury with her left thigh bandaged, and despite receiving some treatment between sets on her lower back and leg, she opted to retire.

Former world No. 1 Pliskova, now No. 4, had been having a successful week on clay after her disappointing second-round exit at the US Open, where she was the top seed.

"It is disappointing not to finish today but Simona was too strong. I have to be ready 100 per cent to play a good match against her," she said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2020, with the headline 'Halep wins Rome crown after Pliskova retires'. Print Edition | Subscribe