Halep wins first WTA title in over a year

Simona Halep won her first WTA title in more than a year as the Romanian beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Madrid Masters to claim her 12th career trophy.

The victory in 80 minutes will send Halep, who last won an event at Indian Wells in March of last year, back to a ranking in the top five from her current place at seventh.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” said the winner.

“I’m very, very pleased for this.

“It’s a special day for me and a special feeling. It was so important for me to win this event. I have more confidence and I believe in myself more now.”

Halep said she had played her best tennis at the tournament.

“It was amazing on court. I just want to keep that feeling for a long time,” she said.

Slovenian Cibulkova, winner of of three comeback matches this week at the Caja Magica, entered the final with a 3-1 lead in the series against the Romanian.

With their last meeting almost two years ago, history was rewritten as Halep won for the first time in four years against her 38th-ranked opponent.

Halep’s victory, sealed by drilling an ace down the middle on match point, improved her Madrid record to 11-5. Two years ago she played the Madrid final and lost to Maria Sharapova.

This time she swept the first set against Cibulkova with two breaks of serve in 29 minutes, then began the second with a break of serve, landing a winning volley into the empty court after driving her opponent back to the baseline to rescue a return.

Halep backed it up with a hold, moving to 209 as a netcord ball dribbled over the net in her favour. The seed ran her leading margin to 4-2 as she finished the job a game later with a flourish on her 20th winner after breaking Cibulkova three times.

“Of course I’m a little sad. I don’t want this loss to get into the great feelings of this week,” Cibulkova said.

“Playing the finals here – it’s a great experience.” She now aims to get some rest and prepare for Roland Garros, saying her clay game “really came together” in Madrid.

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