Wimbledon champion Simona Halep battled back from a set down to defeat Elena Rybakina and claim her first title of 2020 with victory at the Dubai Duty Free Championships.
Top seed Halep, the world No 2, finally came through 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) after a gruelling contest which lasted just short of two-and-a-half hours.
Kazakhstan’s Rybakina has risen from 192 to 19 in the world rankings over the last 12 months. The 20-year-old looked on course for another upset after claiming the opening set following a break and hold to lead 5-2.
Halep, though, took command of the second set at 4-1 before swiftly recovering from a loss of serve to break back and then level the match.
The deciding set proved a tense affair, with each player broken twice.
It would take more than an hour before Halep, the 2015 Dubai champion, finally closed out victory after she recovered from 4-5 down in the tie-break to win three straight points as Rybakina hit a backhand return long from the baseline.
20 titles on the 20th anniversary of @DDFTennis in 2020 ?
I fought realllly hard for this one and it feels so beautiful ❤️#Sim20 pic.twitter.com/qkoEt7jLS3
“It feels great that I could win it,” Halep said in her post-match press conference.
“[Rybakina] fought till the end. She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally.
“The pressure was very high. But I want it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end.”
The Romanian, who was cheered on by a vocal support, added: “I am proud of this week. I have given my best.”
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