Sunday, 14 May 2017

Halep wins Madrid again

Simona Halep has won her second successive Madrid Open, but was given a solid workout by Kristina Mladenovic, whose courage battling a back complaint was admirable.

A muddling first set by both women, including five breaks of serve, could have gone either way, but it was Halep who was the steadier when it counted most and she led 7-5.
The French 14th seed broke Halep immediately in set two, and at 2-0 was using her deadly forehand to control proceedings.  A third set was appearing a real possibility.

Halep struck back, and with the next three games could almost see the finish line.  Mladenovic was in catch up mode.  The next seven games produced some of the best tennis seen throughout the tournament.  Halep's backhand, particularly down both lines was winning many key points, but Mladenovic countered with clever drop shots and turning defence into attack with astonishing ground shots when under immense scoreboard pressure.

At 5-6 Mladenovic was rock solid and assured that set two would require a tie break.
The standard of tennis elevated yet again and Mladenovic set the pace.  At 5-4 the French hope ended a thrilling rally with a jaw dropping drop shot, setting up 2 set points. Halep saved one, but couldn't handle a blazing forehand on the second, and the sets were tied one all.

The worsening of the back injury was unkind and ill-timed for Mladenovic, who at full fitness may have challenged. Halep all the way, but the third set revealed the extent of the restrictions to her movement.  
Halep took full advantage and at 2-4 Mladenovic lost a second service game.
Simona Halep eased through to win 7-5 6-7 6-2.

The first men's semi final was won by Rafa Nadal who gave Novak Djokovic an unexpected thrashing, giving something back for the past few years of failure against the Serb. 6-2 6-4 and taking the points lead from Federer so far in 2017.

The final opponent for Nadal will be Dominic Thiem who also found the semi final relatively straightforward, defeating Pablo Cuevas 6-4 6-4.
Thiem never faced a break point, but 10 were available for him on the Cuevas delivery.
Only two were converted, one in each set, but that was all required for the victory.

Nadal leads Thiem 3-1 in the head to head contest, the most recent meeting in the Barcelona final last month, which Nadal won for the loss of only five games.

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