Simona Halep had to huff and puff to her 20th WTA title as Elena Rybakina pushed her to the distance before going down in the WTA Dubai 2020 final.
The Romanian needed a final set tie-breaker before winning the title, clinching the match 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) to lift her second title in as many years. Halep, who was the 2019 Wimbledon winner, her only title last year, was down a break in the final set but levelled it at 3-3 and took the set into a tie-breaker which she then won.
Having entered the match with a 0-1 record on head to head against Rybakina, Halep ensured she consolidated her number two spot on the WTA Rankings with this win.
The first set started with Rybakina showing signs of the same form which had seen her make it to four WTA finals this year including this one in Dubai. She had a chance to break Halep in the second game but final did that in the sixth from being 40-15 down.
The two ladies held serve over the next two games to make it 5-3 at which point Rybakina served to win the first set, thwarting two break-points in the process.
Halep responded in kind in the second set. She broke her Kazakh opponent in the fourth game, attaining her first break for the match and went 3-1 ahead. Things started to turn around in Rybakina’s favour after she saved a couple of break-points in the sixth game to push the scoreline to 4-2 in the set before breaking Halep back to narrow the deficit to 4-3.
Not to be outdone, Halep came back to regain her break advantage and this time around, served out the set to make it 1-1.
The duo traded breaks on two separate occasions in the final set. Rybakina was off the blocks rather quickly to win the fourth game on Halep’s service only to lose her own serve in the next game. And then Halep broke Rybakina to go 6-5 up but failed to serve out for the match, taking the final set to a well-deserved tie-breaker.
Rybakina had the first mini-break of serve to go 4-3 up but Halep levelled it immediately and took a 6-5 lead yet again. This time, however, Rybakina failed to hold on to her serve and Halep converted her only match-point to lift the trophy.
Halep was to play at the WTA Doha but has withdrawn from that competition while Rybakina, who has been given the 14th seed spot in it, is yet to announce any such decisions.