Down 1-4 in the third set of the Madrid Open final, Simona Halep broke Maria Sharapova at love, then held, creating the possibility that the set was still quite competitive. But that would be the last game that Halep would win. Sharapova defeated her 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 to win her 31st tour title. With wins in both Stuttgart and Madrid, Sharapova has solidified herself as the woman to beat on clay (that still sounds so odd). At the same time, Halep remains a major threat to anyone who competes against her on clay (or on any surface).
Halep ran over Sharapova in the first set, attacking her from all angles and serving beautifully. It seemed obvious that the Romanian was in the Russian's head, but it was no surprise when the tables turned in the second set. I thought that Halep became too passive, and it wasn't until her situation appeared almost hopeless in the third set that she turned the aggression on "high" again. But it wasn't enough, and one hopes that Halep can use her loss today as a lesson in what happens if one backs off of offensive play too much--especially against the likes of Sharapova.
Sharapova converted 83% of break points; Halep converted only 40%. That's the most accurate match summary I can provide.
Before the trophy ceremony took place, there was a tribute to Dinara Safina, who retired this week. I was under the impression that Safina was going to present the winner's trophy, but that didn't happen. I think it would have been really nice if it had happened. Safina delivered her speech in Spanish, and I was able to follow very little of it. (Anyone who is fluent in Spanish, please feel free to provide comments.) 'Pova was a bit emotional in wishing Dinara well, thanking her for being a strong woman. She was also full of praise for her opponent.
I liked it that these two were in the final. I would like to have seen Halep win it, but I'm always glad to see Sharapova lift a trophy, so, for me, it was all good.
Tennis writers, commentators and editors/producers are driving me crazy (what else is new?). Please stop showing those "old" photos of Simona Halep. They pop up on tennis blogs, tennis sites and on television, and it isn't because there aren't plenty of more current ones to show. The WTA should have put a stop to this the moment it started occurring.
Also--tennis writers and commentators, here's a news flash: The USSR stopped existing in 1991. That was 23 years ago. Do you think you could stop referring to Ukraine as a Soviet province? It's inappropriate under any circumstance, but especially right now.
On to Rome. Ula Radwanska has fallen to Belinda Bencic in the
second round of qualifying. No surprise there. Julia Goerges and
Kristina Mladenovic were also both defeated in the second round of
qualifying. There are some really interesting first round match-ups in the draw:
Dominika Cibulkova vs. Camila Girogi
Belinda Bencic vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Eugenie Bouchard vs. Francesca Schiavone
Sabine Lisicki vs. Samantha Stosur