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Tennis: Simona Halep succeeds Li Na as Shenzhen Open champion

Simon Halep won her ninth WTA title at the Shenzhen Open, where two-time champion Li Na (left) was the guest of honour. Photos: Shenzhen Open.

World No. 3 Simon Halep won her ninth WTA title at the Shenzhen Open in front of Li Na (left). Photos: Shenzhen Open.

January 10, 2015: World No. 3 Simona Halep ended the surprise run of Timea Bacsinszky on Saturday afternoon by steamrolling the Swiss 6-2, 6-2 to win her ninth WTA title and put herself among the favourites for the upcoming Australian Open in Melbourne.

 

In the first round, Halep had to recover from two breaks down in the second set against young German Annika Beck before winning 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, but the fright scared her into action and the top seed never dropped another set in Shenzhen, including in Saturday’s final.

 

The 23-year-old Romanian said she felt unwell before the match, but held all eight of her service games – never facing a break point – and earned four breaks of her own to beat the eighth-seeded Bacsinszky in 62 minutes.

 

“I wasn’t feeling very well before the match – I was a little bit sick – so I told myself I have nothing to lose, just go on court, be relaxed, stay focused and fight for every point,” Halep said, as reported on wtatennis.com. “It worked and I felt really relaxed. I’m happy I could play better day by day and match by match here. I’m looking forward to playing like today in the next tournament, maybe even better.”

 

Halep was asked if she could follow the path set by Li Na – the tournament’s guest of honour on Saturday – who won the first two Shenzhen Opens in 2013 and 2014, and went on to reach the Australian Open final each time.

 

“It’s tough to answer that question,” Halep said. “You never know what will happen day by day, but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself for the Australian Open. I have to be focused there and I hope to win many matches there, but it’ll be tough. I’ll just try to do everything I did here.”

 

Despite coming up one win short on Saturday, it was still a breakthrough week for Bacsinszky. She reached her first WTA final since 2010 and beat World No. 4 Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals, matching her win over then-No. 4 Maria Sharapova in Wuhan last fall.

 

In the other semi, Halep won 6-2, 6-3 against China’s rising star Zheng Saisai, 20, who reached the last four by beating Kazakhstan No. 1 Zarina Diyas 3-6, 7-6, 6-2. Zheng, who was competing in the semis of a WTA event for only the second time, and Diyas train together under Alan Ma in Guangzhou.

 

In the doubles final, the Kichenok twins – Lyudmyla and Nadiia – from Ukraine became just the second set of twins to win a WTA doubles title together by beating Chinese duo Liang Chen and Wang Yafan 6-4, 7-6(6). The Pliskova twins from the Czech Republic have won three WTA doubles titles together.

 

The Kichenok twins from Ukraine beat Chinese duo Wang Yafan and Liang Chen in the doubles.

The Kichenok twins from Ukraine beat Chinese duo Wang Yafan and Liang Chen in the doubles.

Source: WTA Tennis (www.wtatennis.com); Editing by SportAsia

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