Defending champion Simona Halep eases into Madrid Open final

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And it was she who made the flawless start in a topsy-turvy opening set by jumping out to a 2-0 lead.

There were no breaks in the second set, with Mladenovic holding her nerve in the tie-break and seizing on her second match-point opening. "I keep more energy in this way", Halep said in her post-match interview. Once again, Halep was tested in the third round as she was up against 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur in a rematch of last year's semifinal clash.

During the first set Halep has twice lost a break, but when the score was 3:5 have won four games in a row and came close to the title.

Doubles partners Kristina Mladenovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have had more fun on the same side of the net than on opposites sides, as they were pitted together in the second semi-final.

To her credit, Mladenovic showed huge determination to play through the pain barrier, breaking back and the second set remained on serve after that. "There were times we both had, like, some bad moments because we would try too much to change our natural game". She broke Mladenovic in the third game showing to be doing better physically.

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Finalist in 2003 and 2015 with the Old Lady he has come close already, but there is a sense this year will be his final chance. Juventus will meet the victor between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the final in Cardiffon June 3.

And make no mistake, Halep has fine clay credentials.

And Halep completely broke Mladenovic's spirit in another epic 14-point game for a 5-2 lead before serving out for the championship to love. Elena Vesnina and Johanna Konta both won their first Premier Mandatory titles against players who already have won them in the past. I don't really want to talk about my lower back.

However, she does earn a bye to the second round in the Eternal City, while Mladenovic, who rises to a seeding of 13, will have to take that sore back straight into action in Round 1, and it is a tough one against Julia Goerges. The final with Halep will be hard and I need to prepare.

This final will take place on the Manolo Santana court at not before 7pm local time, and this is the biggest clay court event outside of the French Open, so the victor of this match will head into the French Open with a lot of confidence.

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