PRAGUE              -         Top seed Simona Halep claimed her second successive title, albeit six months apart, as she comfortably beat Elise Mertens to win the Prague Open on Sunday. 

The Romanian world number two, playing her first event since winning in Dubai in February, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic forced tennis to shutdown, won 6-2 7-5. Halep had struggled to shake off the rust throughout the week and came close to a first-round defeat by Polona Hercog before struggling past Barbora Krejcikova and compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu, but she was in the groove against Mertens. 

Victory in one hour 33 minutes over Belgian Mertens earned her a 21st career WTA trophy — the fifth-highest tally of active players behind only Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters and Petra Kvitova. Mertens blazed into a 2-0 lead with a flurry of winners, but Halep responded by reeling off seven successive games to take control. 

Halep did not have things all her own way though and was broken back early in the second set as Mertens again went on the attack. A wobbly service game allowed Halep to move a break ahead again in the fifth game, alhough Mertens retaliated again to level the second set at 4-4. Halep broke to lead 6-5 though and finished it off with a heavy forehand. 

BRADY DEFEATS GAUFF IN STRAIGHT SETS TO REACH FIRST WTA FINAL

American Jennifer Brady defeated compatriot Coco Gauff 6-2 6-4 at the Top Seed Open on Saturday, earning a spot in her first WTA final. The outdoor, hard court tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, marks the first WTA event in the United States since the coronavirus outbreak forced a hiatus and upended the professional sports calendar. 

World No. 49 Brady used a powerful serve to her advantage over Gauff at the fanless tournament, firing off eight aces and winning nearly 85% of her first-serve points, to set up a final clash with Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann. “I’ve been working a little bit on all aspects of the serve, mainly the stroke and the timing of the serve, more technique, things like that,” said Brady. “If I’m able to serve well, I’m able to start the point aggressive, start it in my favor.”