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Halep wins 2nd WTA title of year at Dubai Championships

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Top-seeded Simona Halep earned her second title of the year by beating 17th-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday.

Halep benefited from a large contingent of Romanian compatriots, who constantly cheered “Si-mon-a” from the stands.

“It’s really nice to hear your name during the changeover,” Halep said. “It’s amazing that they can come to support me. I see the love, you know.”

Halep also won in Shenzhen, China, last month, and this marked her second Premier 5 title, the highest level of WTA events after the Grand Slams. The previous was the Qatar Open a year ago.

Pliskova was playing this week at a career-high ranking of No. 18. Next week the Czech will move up to No. 12.

“I still can’t imagine myself, I’m 12 in the ranking,” Pliskova said. “I just hope I’m going to start to feel like I belong there.”

Despite the loss, Pliskova added five aces to her yearly tally. She has a tour-leading 149 in a tour-leading 22 matches.

Pliskova surrendered her serve in the seventh game of the first set at love to give Halep the needed advantage for the set.

The Czech, who started the second set with a 2-0 lead, took an off-court medical timeout for a left hip issue after losing the advantage.

In all, there were eight service breaks leading into the second-set tiebreaker.

“I was just tying to do my best, and trying to stay in the second set,” Pliskova said. “My serve, I wouldn’t say it wasn’t good, but she’s just great returning.”

In the second set, Halep served for the match twice, failing to take advantage of a match point in the 10th and 12th games.

“I did two double faults at 6-5, I don’t know how,” Halep said. “But in the tiebreak I was strong, and I was fighting till the end.”

At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Halep won the final three points of the match. She took her third match point with a forehand winner into an open court.

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