Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship winner Halep climbs to third

Simona Halep of Romania poses with her winners trophy after beating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the final of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on February 21, 2015 in Dubai. (AFP)

Romanian Simona Halep has climbed one place to third in the latest WTA rankings published on Monday on the strength of her weekend win in Dubai.

The list continues to be dominated by Serena Williams, whose sister Venus dropped from 11th to 17th.

Karolina Pliskova, beaten by Halep in Dubai, moves up five rungs to 13th.

WTA rankings - February 23

1. Serena Williams (USA) 9.592
2. Maria Sharapova (RUS) 8.210
3. Simona Halep (ROM) 6.571 (+1)
4. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6.480 (-1)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 4.730
6. Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 4.425
7. Eugénie Bouchard (CAN) 4.365
8. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 4.025
9. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 3.320
10. Andrea Petkovic (GER) 3.150
11. Angelique Kerber (GER) 2.650 (+1)
12. Sara Errani (ITA) 2.641 (+4)
13. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 2.620 (+5)
14. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 2.585 (-1)
15. Lucie Safarova (CZE) 2.555
16. Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 2.506 (-2)
17. Venus Williams (USA) 2.366 (-6)
18. Dominika Cibulkova (SLQ) 2.236 (-1)
19. Madison Keys (USA) 2.100 (+1)
20. Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 2.095 (+4)

Gulf double

Top-seeded Simona Halep earned the tenth title of her career and made it a Gulf double by capturing the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 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.

The presentation was made in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint  Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President of Tennis Emirates, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Micky Lawler, WTA President, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice President Dubai Duty Free, George Horan, President Dubai Duty Free, Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, Vice-President of Tennis Emirates, Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director and Sinead El Sibai, Vice President Marketing Dubai Duty Free.

“I'm very happy now, and I cannot explain words how I feel,” said the new champion. “It's just an amazing title for me. It's very important for my career. I'm really happy, and I just want to enjoy this moment.”

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.

The doubles title went to Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, who defeated Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 6-2. It was their fourth final together, and their first title.

“We have once again enjoyed many outstanding matches throughout the week, culminating in a fascinating final between two new stars to women's tennis which had us on the edge of our seats,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continues with the ATP event.

Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. 
 

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