Halep fires Australian Open warning with Shenzhen title

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Simona Halep of Romania hits a return against Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic during their women’s singles final match at the WTA Shenzhen Open tennis tournament in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province on Sunday. AFP PHOTO

SHENZHEN, China: World No.1 Simona Halep fired a warning to her Australian Open rivals on Saturday, beating Katerina Siniakova in three sets to win the Shenzhen Open.

The Romanian saw off the reigning champion from the Czech Republic 6-1, 2-6, 6-0 in 72 rollercoaster minutes in rain-hit southern China.

The 26-year-old Halep is guaranteed top seeding for the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam, which begins in Melbourne on January 15.

This was her 16th WTA title but the first since reaching the top of the world rankings in October.


The match was delayed by five hours because of rain in Shenzhen and had to be moved indoors before play could begin.

“It’s been a great week for me as I’ve been playing very well. It was a difficult match and (Siniakova) played very well,” said Halep.

“I was a little bit less nervous and just tried to enjoy the moment, even if we are playing indoors,” she added.

“It’s not easy but we did our job and I’m happy that I could win the first title of the year.”

Halep had earlier provided a heart-warming moment when she made use of the severe rain delay by exchanging a few shots with a young boy who had been plucked from the sodden crowd.

To applause and cheers, Halep shook the boy’s hand afterwards and planted a kiss on his cheek.

When the final against sixth-seeded Siniakova finally got under way, Halep was not nearly so generous, powering through the first set in less than 30 minutes.

But big-serving Siniakova, who dumped out former world number one Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, roared back to take the second set and force a decider.

Halep regained her composure and stepped up a gear in the third set to take the Shenzhen title for a second time and underline her good form heading into Melbourne.

AFP

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