Tennis: Halep in hurry to set up Dubai final clash with Rybakina

Halep reacts during her match against the US' Jennifer Brady. PHOTO: AFP
Rybakina returns the ball to Croatia's Petra Martic during their semi-final on Feb 21, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (AFP) - Simona Halep pounded out a 6-2, 6-0 defeat of US qualifier Jennifer Brady on Friday (Feb 21) to move into a second career final at the Dubai Championships.

The top seed and world number two will play for the title on Saturday against Elena Rybakina after the Kazakh defeated Petra Martic 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/2) in their earlier semi-final.

"It felt much better than previous matches, I played really well," said Halep after a 62-minute win which followed having to come back from a set down in both of her previous matches.

"Everything went in, I felt the ball great. I feel like I played the best match since I came here."

Rybakina is the form player of 2020, now into her fourth final from five tournaments.

The Kazakh, who has now won a WTA-leading 19 matches in 2020, took two and a quarter hours to outlast her more experienced Croatian opponent Martic who led 3-0 in the second set.

Rybakina won the Hobart title last month and finished runner-up in Shenzhen and St Petersburg.

Halep retired in her only previous match with Rybakina in the Wuhan third round last September.

Halep, the 2015 Dubai champion, went into the Brady match with a fitness advantage, having spent just three and a half hours on court while her opponent had more than nine hours of tennis in her legs.
Brady had upset double Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

"A final is a final," said Halep, who will be bidding for a 20th career title on Saturday.

"It's always a nice opportunity and privilege to play the last match of the tournament.

"I'm playing for another trophy, so I'm relaxed. I'm focused. I really want it. Playing here in Dubai makes me happy on court, I actually feel like every day I'm improving."

After a modest 2019 season, the 20-year-old has Rybakina has improved 150 places to 19th in the rankings.

"It's amazing," she said.

"Hopefully, I can continue to play like this and next year also.

"The first set, it was not easy because she plays good, with really good slices.

"In the second set, of course, I was 3-0 down, but I knew it was going to be easier to win that set than play a third one.

"In the important moments I managed to serve really good. I was fighting every point, just fighting."

Martic, ranked 15th, reached the semis without losing a set. She has won one career title at Istanbul in 2019.

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