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Tennis Roundup: Mertens stuns Halep to lift Qatar Open title

February 17, 2019 09:06 IST

Elise Mertens

IMAGE: Belgium's Elise Mertens poses with the trophy as she celebrates after winning the final. Photograph: Ibraheem Al Omari/Reuters

Belgium's Elise Mertens rallied from a set down to beat top seed Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 and clinch her first Premier-level title at the Qatar Open on Saturday.

After both players dropped their opening service game, Halep took control of the encounter by winning 18 consecutive points from 3-3 to clinch the first set.

 

World number three Halep grabbed an early break in the second set but Mertens responded immediately to get the match back on serve.

Unseeded Mertens held her nerve to fend off two break points in the seventh game before she broke Halep's serve to love en route to claiming her first set in six played against the Romanian.

With momentum firmly on her side, Mertens claimed a crucial early break in the deciding set and went on to hold off a late Halep surge to win her fifth WTA title.

Mertens, ranked 21 in the world, recorded three top-10 victories in Doha this week, also beating Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.

The 23-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough 2018 season, winning three titles, and has since maintained her steady progress on the WTA tour.

Halep, who helped Romania to their first-ever Fed Cup semi-final last weekend, struggled physically in the closing stages and needed medical assistance for treatment on her right foot.

"Honestly, I wanted to lift this beautiful trophy but Elise deserved it very much," said Halep, who won the Doha title in 2014.

Wawrinka outlasts Nishikori in Rotterdam, faces Monfils in final

Stanislas Wawrinka

IMAGE: Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in action.  Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Three-time Grand Slam champion Stanislas Wawrinka battled past Kei Nishikori 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam on Saturday to set up a final against Frenchman Gael Monfils.

Swiss Wawrinka, who reached his first final since undergoing two knee surgeries in 2017, fired 35 winners, including eight aces to triumph in just over two hours.

In an intense final set, both players held serve with relative ease until the 10th game when Wawrinka fired two scorching forehands to convert a break point and book a place in Sunday's final.

A week after falling to Daniil Medvedev in the Sofia Open semi-finals, Monfils's relentless court coverage proved the difference as he defeated the Russian 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Frenchman Monfils finished with 29 winners to move one step away from a first title since lifting the Qatar Open title in January last year.

Fifth seed Medvedev, who won the Sofia Open last week, struggled to land his forehands in the final set as he conceded a decisive break of serve in the ninth game of the final set.

"Tactically I think I played good and physically I was tough, I was happy that I could handle it physically," said Monfils.

"My game plan was definitely to make him play a lot of balls and at the end I think it paid off. I was very happy because I kept the aggressive spirit at the end and I think that is why I won today."

Opelka stings top seed Isner again to reach New York Open final

Reilly Opelka saved six match points and blasted 43 aces to hand John Isner another crushing loss as he stunned the top seed 6-7(8), 7-6(14), 7-6(4) in the semi-finals of the New York Open on Saturday.

Opelka had delivered a similar tough defeat to fellow American Isner in the opening round of the Australian Open last month when he edged out a four-set win with each set finishing in a tiebreak.

The two big servers battled in another grudge match, with Isner falling short despite 38 aces of his own. Their combined 81 aces is a new ATP Tour record in a three-set match.

The 21-year-old Opelka will pursue his first career singles title against Brayden Schnur who reached the final by upending sixth seed Sam Querrey 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3.

The Canadian Schnur had never won an ATP Tour main draw match before this week, but the qualifier saved five setpoints in the opening set and kept his unlikely run intact.

"It’s an extremely big moment for me. These last few days have been unbelievable,” Schnur told reporters.

“I was one of the last guys to get into qualifying and my coach said to just see what happens. I think I’ve turned a lot of heads this week and am on the come-up.” Schnur, the 154th-ranked player in the world, won two qualifying matches just to get into the tournament.

After winning the opening set from Querrey, Schnur appeared to be facing a letdown. He had a break point chance to lead 4-0 but ultimately succumbed to unforced errors that allowed his American opponent to take control and level the match.

Schnur regrouped with an early break to lead 2-0 in the deciding set and ultimately ended the match after one hour and 54 minutes.

Top seed Thiem knocked out by home favourite Schwartzman

Local favourite Diego Schwartzman recovered from a shaky start to overcome top seed Dominic Thiem 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) on Saturday and set up a final showdown with Italy’s Marco Cecchinato at the Argentina Open.

Buenos Aires-born Schwartzman fought back from 4-2 down to force a tiebreak in the third set.

The world number 19 held his nerve in a nail-biting tiebreak to condemn Thiem, who had won the title in both of his previous two appearances at the tournament, to his first defeat in the Argentine capital.

Schwartzman will take on Cecchinato in Sunday’s final after the Italian beat another Argentine, Guido Pella, 6-4, 6-2.

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