Nastase defies WTA ban to mar Halep’s back-to-back Madrid titles
By Ros Satar, in Madrid
- Simona Halep def. Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7(5) 6-2
- Ilie Nastase causes controversy once more as a tournament guest despite WTA revoking his credentials
MADRID, SPAIN – Simona Halep successfully defending her title, but the presence of Ilie Nastase at the trophy ceremony causes more controversy.
Simona Halep def. Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7(5) 6-2
A mixture of an edgy start by defending champion Simona Halep, and some superb aggressive play by Kristina Mladenovic saw the women’s final start with an eight minute game and an immediate break for the Frenchwoman.
A comfortable consolidation for Mladenovic and a nerve-settling hold for Halep set the scene for a lot of cat and mouse tactics as the pair continued to test the waters.
After such an aggressive start, Halep looked to settle while it was Mladenovic’s turn to be put under pressure, with Halep breaking back, holding to ease ahead for the first time in the match, but that too was short-lived with the Frenchwoman breaking once more.
Last time Halep felt under pressure in the semi-final, and coach Darren Cahill was summoned, the Romanian reeled off six games on the bounce to book her spot in the final.
This time around she swiftly found herself having to serve to stay in the set, and once more whatever Cahill said worked as she won four games on the bounce to come from behind to take the first set.
Winning the next two games put her in a commanding position and in truth had she gone 3-0 up it most likely would have been too far for the French No. 1 to take any initiative. That being said, Mladenovic broke back to put things back on serve as the pair did not give either a sniff of a break point towards the business end of the set.
Nerves and fighting spirit were the order of the day as Mladenovic, beginning to look hampe4red with the back injury she mentioned in her previous press conference managed to not only force a tie-break, but took advantage of few tight warriors by Halep to swing the tide her way to level the match.
The start of the third set saw a lot more resolve from Halep with an early break and she delivered the final blow at the end of the set before serving out for a back to back titles to love. It was a tough pill for Mladenovic to swallow – she has lost two Premier finals but she paid tribute to Halep and also the quality of the tennis played.
“Honestly, we had an amazing final, and I don’t want to put any comments on my lower back saying that was the reason why I couldn’t make it till the end and win that match. What we did today with Simona on the court, battling for two hours and a half in the last match of the tournament, knowing we for sure had both of us a long and tiring tournament to reach the final, and somehow to push even more to produce probably the best tennis from both of us for the entire tournament.
“Also on the physical aspect, I feel like we’ve been running forever out there, left, right, left, right. Let’s try forward some dropshot. Doesn’t work. Left, right, left, right. It was endless, honestly (laughing).”
Not surprisingly it was a cheerful Halep who came in wondering why there were no beers (she brought them in for the press last year) not to mention admitting that she had a chocolate mousse waiting.
She said: “It means a lot because it’s very big and gives me confidence for the bigger tournaments. I feel that actually I have the game to win big tournaments. I have just to be consistent mentally. Today I struggled a little bit.
“But in the end, I was stronger. I was better mentally. I’m proud actually that I could stay there focused.
“I just want to enjoy this moment. I’m not thinking about the next tournaments yet. I don’t know how is going to be in the future, the next tournaments, but I feel pretty confident now that I could win so many good matches.”
The French Open buzz now clearly has Halep’s name attached to it, although she ruefully laughed remembering that last year Rome came and went in an opening round loss, although to be fair she did make it to the fourth round of the French Open, playing through the mud from the awful conditions.
“Well, on clay court I feel that I always have a chance to make big results. I know that in 2014 I did also finals in Roland Garros. Now in this moment I feel that I’m able to do that again, but I don’t know how is going to be. Of course, I’m thinking about the next days, next weeks, but I’m not thinking about the results because I feel better when I’m not thinking. The pressure is not negative pressure, it’s positive pressure now. I want to keep this.
“Of course, next week I will have little bit trouble because I’m too happy. You remember last year, what I couldn’t do in a match in Rome. But hopefully this year I will be better and I go through the tournament more.”
Nastase’s appearance defies WTA
The only sour note after a great final was the VIP appearance by Ilie Nastase. He has been spotted all week in the VIP box as a personal guest of tournament owner Ion Tiriac.
The owner, had allowed him to be part of the presentation ceremony, and while Halep stated in Stuttgart that she did not support what Nastase had said on court during the chaotic Fed Cup tie between Romania and Great Britain, she continues to acknowledge that she has always appreciated his support.
Shortly after the trophy presentation, WTA CEO Steve Simon released this statement.
— WTA (@WTA) May 13, 2017
It remains to be seen if any resulting action will be taken, as obviously their revoking of the credentials was still completely ignored by ‘Mr Tiriac’.
Featured Image Credit: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
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