Tennis: Simona Halep serves up a Gulf double for tenth WTA title

DUBAI (AFP) - Top-seeded Simona Halep earned the tenth title of her career and made it a Gulf double by capturing the Dubai Open with a tenacious and skilful 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) win over Karolina Pliskova on Saturday.

The Romanian will defend the Doha title next week in good spirits after proving too mobile and tactically too flexible for the 22-year-old Pliskova, who has served the most aces on the WTA Tour this year - now 149 - but missed two break point chances early on, and they proved costly.

Halep, who had shown herself a great fighter by coming back from close to defeat to Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals, took nine points in a row to reach 5-3 against Ploskova and gain control of the first set.

Halep also recovered from a break down in the second, and survived the disappointments of missing a match point on her serve in both the tenth and twelfth games. On the second occasion, she bungled it with two double faults in a row.

However, she eventually closed the match out in from 3-4 down in the tie-break, and after finishing it with another of many accurate backhand drives, burst into mighty smiles towards a large Romanian contingent before sanctifying herself.

"I really love this. I'm lost for words," she said, though in fact Halep quickly found them when asked how she had dealt with the steep and difficult Pliskova serve.

"It's such a good serve that I spent time practising my return; I think I have a good return.

"I didn't serve very well, but I did other things okay."

The match might have taken a very different course had Pliskova converted a break point at advantage receiver in the fourth game, when Halep saved it with a decent first serve, or succeeded with another break point at 30-40 in the sixth game.

On that occasion, Pliskova was not quite quick enough to contain an immaculate backhand driven magnetically parallel to the side-line.

Halep broke serve in the next game for 4-3, advanced to 5-3, closing out the set two games later, with Pliskova suffering a dip in morale.

This was made worse by one horrendous smash into the net from a short lob.

Pliskova did, however, show signs of recovery in the second set. She broke for 2-0 and later hung on well when Halep served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5.

But an uncharacteristic forehand drive into the net put Pliskova four points to five down in the tie-break, an opportunity Halep took well by winning the next pair of points on her serve.

Pliskova's consolation is a big leap from 18 in the world to 12, though she may have paid a penalty for having played more than any other player on the tour.

A left hip problem required treatment in the second set, and she will, she says, have to adjust her schedule so that it doesn't worsen more.

"It's not serious, I think, but it's just too many matches for me," she said.

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