Halep outlasts Muguruza to book final spot

Simona Halep came out on top in a thrilling three-set tussle against Garbine Muguruza, defeating the world No.17 6-3 4-6 6-4 to advance to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final for the third time.

The Romanian was the fresher of the two players – she’d been on court for three hours 38 minutes this week compared to seven hours 30 minutes for her opponent – and that was ultimately the difference. Muguruza, who hit 35 winners but committed 37 unforced errors in the match, running out of steam at the end of the two-hour 14 minute clash to hand Halep her 13th straight victory.

“She’s a very, very difficult player and good player. It’s always, you know, good vibe and good feeling when I win against her. I feel confident now that I was able to win this match. 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. Credit to her that she fought till the end. But I am happy that I was a little bit stronger in the end and I could, you know, be more aggressive when I needed to,” said Halep.

Halep was out of the blocks quickly, displaying pin point accuracy and moving Muguruza from side to side, breaking her opponent in the first game and then securing a double break to open up a 5-1 lead. The Spaniard appeared sluggish and was lacking intensity as she fell behind 6-3 in 40 minutes.

Muguruza began shortening the points and playing more aggressively in the second set while Halep’s intensity level dropped and she started pushing the ball. The two players exchanged four consecutive breaks of serve as the set neared its conclusion but Muguruza’s change of tactics were beginning to pay off, her groundstrokes were firing and she won three games in a row to take the set 6-4.

The momentum switched the way of Halep in the decider as she raced to a 5-1 lead. She had regained her intensity and started dictating play, moving Muguruza around the court again and growing in confidence and belief as the finish line approached.

As with the rest of the match it seemed as if Muguruza played her best tennis when her back was against the wall. Showing her trademark grit and determination she won three games in a row to put the match back on serve but she couldn’t get ahead and another service game proved a step too far, two double faults handing victory to Halep, who struck 21 winners and hit 22 unforced errors during the semi-final.

“So it was a tough battle, as I expected. Yeah, physically today I struggled. I think that’s the fourth match or fifth match, I think, in short days. I felt it since a long time also not playing matches in a row,” said Muguruza. “Yeah, since the beginning I knew today I was going to struggle a little bit, because I wasn’t feeling as fresh as I probably wished to face this kind of opponent. But even though I wasn’t in my best, I’m pretty happy with my performance and my fighting spirit.I think that far from my best, I took her to, yeah, to tough moments and also could have turned it around.”

Awaiting Halep in the final will be either defending champion Karolina Pliskova or 2019 Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova.