ROME (Reuters) – Top seed Simona Halep overcame Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 on Sunday to reach the Italian Open final and stay on course for her third straight WTA title.
Halep, who skipped the U.S. Open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, won the Dubai title before the Tour was suspended and lifted the Prague crown on its resumption.
The Romanian, who is looking to extend her winning run to 14 matches and seal a first title in Rome, will next face Karolina Pliskova after the Czech beat compatriot Marketa Vondrousova 6-2 6-4 in the second semi-final.
Halep, the 2018 Roland Garros champion cruised through the opening set and was on course for an easy win but Muguruza, who took a medical timeout for a back issue, battled back from 2-4 down to win the second set and force a decider.
Watched by a small group of fans who were welcomed back for the first time since the Tour was shut down, Halep regained focus in the third set and switched gears to surge ahead 5-1.
Muguruza was not done yet, however, as she clawed her way back to 5-4. But the 2016 French Open champion, who was serving to stay in the match, made successive double faults to gift victory to Halep.
“She’s a very difficult player and a good player,” Halep said. “It’s always a good feeling when I win against her.
“I know I had so many chances to maybe finish it a little bit faster and easier, but as we saw, she doesn’t give up. I’m happy I was a little bit stronger and more aggressive when I needed to be.”
Defending Rome champion Pliskova, knocked out in the second round of last month’s U.S. Open, said she was delighted with her form on clay.
“I feel I have more time to play my game on clay, some of my best matches, victories have been on clay,” Pliskova added.
“I feel it can be for me, and with every year I prove that even more, winning smaller tournaments, indoors in Stuttgart, then Rome last year. Now I feel like I can replicate those results without huge preparation on clay.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru and Manasi Pathak in Chennai, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)