Halep outlasts determined Mladenovic to retain Madrid title

The world number eight produced a gutsy display to down Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 in the Madrid Open final on Saturday.

She could rise to No.13 in the regular rankings with a title on Sunday and will rise to No.14 if she loses.

An incredible drop shot from Mladenovic opened up two set points at 6-4 and she evened the match with a booming forehand down the line.

The world No. 8 is seeking her first title on the 2017 WTA Tour.

Momentum swung backwards and forwards during a marathon opening set on Estadio Manolo Santana.

Meanwhile, a frustrated Halep was given a code violation for kicking her racket in frustration in the direction of a ball boy when she was 30-0 down in the 12th game of the second set.

Unseeded Sevastova was playing her first semi-final at premier mandatory level, the grade immediately below grand slam tournaments.

On top of the French tennis player's already strong year, Mladenovic also won her previous match against Halep. Kerber will need to find her rhythm before the French Open with players such as Simona Halep and Kristina Mladenovic surging. "There were times we both had, like, some bad moments because we would try too much to change our natural game". She pressed Halep hard in a long first game, and the Romanian made a couple of nervy double faults to help her opponent grab an immediate break. However, Halep was improving all the time, and she broke again to level, and saved break point to hold for the lead, 6-5.

"I think it was a great final".

Nastase's presence overshadowed a high quality match in which France's Mladenovic played a huge part. "So I'm really proud that I could manage all the situations, all the emotions".

Both players know each other's game like the back of their hand, and the familiarity showed in the early stages of the match as they opened with a pair of breaks.

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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