DOHA–Simona Halep really doesn't want to leave Qatar just yet. After trailing Elina Svitolina 4-1 in the third set on Friday, the world No. 3 clawed her way back to secure a spot in the final, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
"She played amazing. She moved very well. She hit the ball strong. She didn't miss much," Halep said. "So I think was a very high level of tennis today, and I'm really proud that I could win the match against her."
Svitolina had multiple game points for a 5-1 final-set lead, but failed to convert and would go on to lose the next five games. It was an astonishing turnaround after the Ukrainian appeared to be in total control of the match. After losing the first game of the second set, an increasingly confident Svitolina—4-2 against Halep in her career—went on a tear, winning 10 of the next 13 games.
While Halep's level dipped after the first set with a collection of unwarranted errors, Svitolina stepped into an aggressive, dictating game style. Throughout the many long rallies, she was drilling groundstrokes at the lines over and over again. Oftentimes, there was little Halep could do.
But with small army of fans screaming her name and waving Romanian flags, Halep was motivated to stay in the match.
"It's a big thing, because I receive the energy from them. And it's like they don't let me give up," Halep said. "They just keep me there focused, and they send me their desire to see me, the winner of the match. So I take that like a positive thing, and it gives me more power to fight."
Halep's greatest strength is her foot speed and getting more balls back than her opponent, but when that opponent is an equally great defender and mover like Svitolina, Halep has to add more pressure. She did just that after going down 4-1.
"With a strong opponent like her, it's never easy to come back with this score. I was not afraid of hitting the ball," Halep said. "I risked it a little bit."
The victory required both physical and mental stamina since, most of all, Halep was thirsty for revenge over Svitolina. Two of her four losses to the world No. 7 came in Rome finals, and those losses were very much in the 27-year-old's mind going into the semifinals.
"I'm happy because I didn't give up, and the two finals that I played against her in Rome I gave up and I was not ready to fight," Halep said. "Now I change that, and it makes me happier, because I showed myself that I'm able to do that."
It is said that you learn more from a loss than a win. The former No. 1 is rewarded with a chance to grab hold of the beautiful Qatar Total Open trophy—one of the coolest trophies on tour (a majestic golden eagle), which Halep described as beautiful—for the second time in her career on Saturday.
ATP Rotterdam (Mon - Sun 2/11 - 2/17)
• See Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas live on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday 2/11 at 6:30 am ET.
ATP New York (Mon - Sun 2/11 - 2/17)
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WTA Doha (Mon - Sat 2/11 - 2/16)
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