Top seed Simona Halep fought off a strong challenge from Karolina Pliskova to claim the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Saturday, winning 6-4 7-6(4).
The presentation was made in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President of Tennis Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Abdulla Bin Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
Micky Lawler, WTA President, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice President Dubai Duty Free, George Horan, President Dubai Duty Free, Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, Vice President of Tennis Emirates, Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director and Sinead El Sibai, Vice President Marketing Dubai Duty Free.
“I'm very happy now, and I cannot explain words how I feel,” said the new champion. “It's just an amazing title for me. It's very important for my career. I'm really happy, and I just want to enjoy this moment.”
The match was a tense battle from beginning to end, with just one break of serve deciding the opening set. Pliskova had the first opportunity to break, for 3-1, but instead it was Halep who broke at love for a 4-3 lead.
It was Pliskova who also had the first chance of the second set, breaking to lead 2-0, but Halep immediately broke back and Pliskova then left the court for medical attention to a sore hip.
There were a flurry of breaks as the match moved to a dramatic conclusion, with Halep holding a match point after breaking to lead 5-4, Pliskova levelling at 5-5, Halep breaking again to lead 6-5 but then double-faulting on her second match point to take the set to a tiebreak.
“I did two double faults at 65. I cannot imagine how I could serve with 100 kilometers just to put the ball on court but I couldn't,” said Halep. “But in tiebreak I was strong and I stayed very focused and I was fighting till the end. That was the most important, I think.”
Pliskova was delighted with her performances in Dubai but disappointed that she could not manage to take the match to a third set.
“Of course I lost so I'm not really happy, but obviously I'm happy for the week and for the last two or three weeks,” said Pliskova.
“She's a great player, so I didn't have that many chances. I was just trying to do my best and trying to stay in the second set still, but even if I would have win the second set I don't want to say anything that I would have won the match. It would still be hard because she's not giving up on every point. She's running really, really well, and so that's hard to kill the ball to her.”
The doubles title went to Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, who defeated Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 6-2. It was their fourth final together, and their first title.
“We have once again enjoyed many outstanding matches throughout the week, culminating in a fascinating final between two new stars to women's tennis which had us on the edge of our seats,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “We congratulate Simona Halep on her victory, and also Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic for their success in winning their first title as a team. We wish all of them well for the future.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continues with the ATP event which takes place between 23rd and 28th February and features four of the top five players in the world
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily.