DUBAI (AFP) – Simona Halep defeated Elena Rybakina 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) on Saturday night to secure her 20th career title with victory at the Dubai Championships and claimed she felt “pretty dead”.
The world number two from Romania, who also won the title in Dubai in 2015, clinched her first trophy since Wimbledon last summer.
“I love playing here, I gave everything I had,” said Halep who had been 1-3 down in the final set and took victory after coming back from a set down for the third successive match in Dubai.
“Now, actually, I’m pretty dead.”
Rybakina, 20, who will rise to 17 from 19 in the new rankings next week, was playing her fourth final from five tournaments in 2020 having won the Hobart trophy last month on the eve of the Australian Open.
“She’s a talented player,” Halep said of her opponent who has a WTA-leading 19 match wins for the season.
“She’s young and has many more years ahead of her.”
Rybakina, who was just inside the top 200 this time last year, took the tight final set into a deciding tiebreaker when she broke Halep as the top seed served for victory.
“I may have been a bit nervous,” Halep said. “I just kept trying to fight for every ball.
“I’m really proud of this week, I think I gave my best. I enjoy every match I play here.”
Rybakina took the early initiative, gaining a 4-2 lead but struggling to close out the opening set.
The Kazakh had to save two break points as she served for the set leading 5-3.
The 20-year-old double-faulted on a first set point before finally claiming the set on her third opportunity after 38 minutes, saving a pair of break points.
Halep struck back in the second, breaking for 3-1, but Rybakina answered in the seventh game with a break back before losing serve again to trail 3-5 after salvaging three break points.
Halep squared the match at a set each from Rybakina’s backhand error a game later.