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Halep sends Australian Open warning with first title in 16 months

MELBOURNE (AFP) – A fit-again Simona Halep stormed to her first title in 16 months when she downed Russian Veronika Kudermetova to clinch the Melbourne Summer Set crown yesterday in a timely return to form, saying she was confident and feeling good.

The two-time Grand Slam champion used all of her big-match experience to pull through 6-2, 6-3 at the Rod Laver Arena in the ideal preparation for the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.

There were two simultaneous WTA events as part of the Melbourne Summer Set, with Amanda Anisimova battling past Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 to win the other.

It was the 20-year-old American’s second WTA Tour crown, as she too heads into the opening Grand Slam of the year full of confidence.

Former world number one Halep had not landed any silverware since Rome in September 2020, due largely to a calf tear that scuttled her mid-season in 2021 and saw her briefly fall outside the top 20 for the first time since 2013.

But she is back to full fitness and proved too good for the 32nd-ranked Kudermetova to claim her 23rd career title.

“Let’s keep winning because I like this feeling,” said Halep, who made the final at the 2018 Australian Open, losing to Caroline Wozniacki. “The body is great. I feel good. I had a tough five matches, and my body is good. I don’t feel that tired.”

Simona Halep of Romania with the winner’s trophy. PHOTO: AP
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