Simona Halep wins 21st WTA title at Prague Open

Getty Images
0 Comments

PRAGUE — Top-seeded Simona Halep defeated third-seeded Elise Mertens 6-2, 7-5 in the Prague Open final on Sunday to claim her 21st WTA title.

The second-ranked Romanian broke Mertens for a 6-5 lead in the final set before converting her first match point to win her second title this year after the Dubai Championships in February.

Before the Wimbledon champion recovered from a foot injury she sustained in Dubai, the coronavirus pandemic forced a five-month break.

“It was really tough to get back,” Halep said. “I’m happy to be back on tour with a victory.”

It was the eighth title on clay for Halep and the first since she won the 2018 French Open. Among the active players, only Serena Williams with 13 and her sister Venus with nine, won more titles on clay.

The No. 23-ranked Mertens jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening set before Halep took charge, taking six straight games.

“I was very pleased about the way of adjusting my game to her game,” Halep said.

Halep improved her record against her Belgian opponent to 4-1 at WTA tournaments.

After the final, Halep said she would decide on Monday if she is ready to play at the forthcoming U.S. Open.

The Prague Open is the second European tournament since the WTA restarted last week with the Palermo Open amid the coronavirus pandemic, with strict health protocols in place and without fans and media except for the television broadcaster.

The players were isolated on one floor of a Prague hotel that was completely booked by tournament organizers.

“Tough rules,” Halep said with a smile. “Staying in a room for ten days is not easy.”

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

Getty Images
0 Comments

LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

Getty Images
0 Comments

HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.