Simona Halep fought back from 4-1 down in the deciding set to beat Elina Svitolina 6-3 3-6 6-4 in the Qatar Open semifinals on Friday, marking her first victory over the Ukrainian in nearly two years.
Top seed Halep made an aggressive start and claimed an early break with a scorching backhand winner to set the tone for the evening.
The Romanian clinched the opening set before WTA Finals champion Svitolina upped her aggression from the baseline to snatch a break for 2-1 lead in the second set.
After bagging the second set, Svitolina claimed an early break again in the final set, while also frustrating her opponent with her relentless court coverage.
Seeking another break of serve to close out the match, Svitolina came out on top in several high-octane rallies during an eight-minute sixth game and held three break points for a 5-1 lead in the final set.
No idea how Simona Halep just won that. From 1-4 down and three times a point from 1-5.
Svitolina playing out of her mind. She won’t understand how she lost. Did little wrong. Halep just wasn’t having it.
Doubt we’ll see a better match all year. Privilege to watch. @BTSport 1
— David Law (@DavidLawTennis) February 15, 2019
But 2014 Doha champion Halep summoned her powers of recovery to fend off all three points and went on to clinch five straight games en route a remarkable victory.
Halep last defeated Svitolina in the 2017 French Open quarterfinals – a match in which she trailed 6-3 5-1 – and since then had not won a set in their following three encounters.
“I’m happy because I didn’t give up… The two finals that I played against her in Rome I gave up and I was not ready to fight,” said Halep, who will face unseeded Belgian Elise Mertens in Saturday’s final.
“Now I change that, and it makes me happier, because I showed myself that I’m able to do that.”
Mertens scored her second top-10 victory of the week as she battled past three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 6-4 2-6 6-1.
Mertens, who defeated fifth seed Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals, has failed to win a set against Halep in her previous two meetings – both on clay last year.
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