MADRID: Simona Halep thanked under-fire Fed Cup coach Ilie Nastase after defending her Madrid Open title by edging out Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) in a thrilling near three-hour final 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
The Romanian, who rises to fourth in the world rankings with victory, was congratulated on court by Nastase as she received the trophy.
Nastase has been banned from the French Open and Wimbledon after he was ejected from Romania’s Fed Cup clash with Great Britain last month for a series of foul-mouthed rants directed at British captain Anne Keothavong and number one Johanna Konta.
However, the former world number one was part of the delegation on hand to present the trophy named after his former Davis Cup partner and Madrid Open owner Ion Tiriac.
“Ille thank you for coming, you are supporting me all match,” said Halep.
Nastase’s presence threatens to overshadow a high quality match in which Mladenovic played a huge part.
The Frenchwoman had won three of the pair’s four previous meetings, including most recently meeting in Indian Wells back in March.
Nadal crushes Djokovic to reach final
Rafael Nadal snapped a seven-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic in commanding fashion as he romped into the final of the Madrid Masters 6-2, 6-4 on Saturday.
The Spaniard looks in ominous form with just over two weeks to go till the start of the French Open as he stretched his perfect record on clay this season to 14-0 with a dominant display.
Nadal will look to seal his fifth title in Madrid in Sunday’s final against Austrian Dominic Thiem in a repeat of the Barcelona Open final Nadal won 6-4, 6-1 two weeks ago.
“It is a great result. To win against Novak by that score you have to be playing very well, otherwise it’s impossible,” said Nadal.
An open era record 50th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic served to highlight the Serb’s dramatic dip in form since they last met in Rome almost exactly a year ago.