After a very long day at the office on Friday, Simona Halep was back on the court at the Melbourne Summer Set on Saturday looking fresh as a daisy, cruising past Chinese qualifier Zheng Qinwen, 6-3, 6-2, to reach the final of the WTA 250 event.

It’s the 41st WTA final of the Romanian’s career.

“It’s a great feeling to play the final in my first tournament of the year,” Halep said. “It’s nice to see I can start this year pretty well, because last year was not that easy.”

After getting broken seven times and needing two hours and 35 minutes to get past 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Viktorija Golubic the day before, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, Halep had no such trouble against the 19-year-old Zheng, holding all seven of her service games—fighting off all five break points she faced—and getting three breaks of her own en route to a much less complicated one-hour, 24-minute victory.

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Halep has now won 17 of her last 21 matches on the tour, a stretch that dates back to last August.

Halep has now won 17 of her last 21 matches on the tour, a stretch that dates back to last August.

Zheng showed some impressive power throughout the match, particularly off her forehand—she had more than twice as many winners off that side as Halep, 12 to 5. But she also had twice as many total unforced errors as Halep, 44 to 22.

“Some balls I felt her power, it was pretty strong and not easy to return those balls,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I think definitely the serve helped me today. I relaxed my arm a little bit more than yesterday—yesterday was terrible.

“I’m happy. I think I played well today. We both played really well.”

Halep, who has now won 17 of her last 21 matches dating back to last August, is now through to the 41st WTA final of her career. She's 22-18 in her first 40 WTA finals.

Awaiting the No. 1-seeded Halep in the final will be the No. 3 seed, Veronika Kudermetova, who advanced past No. 2-seeded Naomi Osaka when Osaka withdrew prior to their semifinal match due to an abdominal injury.

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Halep has beaten Kudermetova in straight sets both times they’ve met. Both meetings came last year, Halep winning in the third round of the Australian Open in February, 6-1, 6-3, and in the second round of Moscow in October, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Kudermetova is through to the third WTA final of her career, her first two both coming last year, and both at WTA 500 events—she was a runner-up in Abu Dhabi in January (to Aryna Sabalenka) and then won Charleston in April.

The No. 31-ranked Russian won’t be intimidated by Halep’s No. 20 ranking, either—she has eight career Top 20 wins (which include six Top 10 wins).