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By Chris Oddo | Saturday May 13, 2017

Simona Halep worked her way past Kristina Mladenovic to become the first woman to earn back-to-back titles at the Mutua Madrid Open since Serena Williams, 7-6, 6-7(2), 6-2.

More: Nadal Claims Madrid Title No.5 with Win over Thiem

It was the first title of the season for Halep, who became the first player to reach the final at Madrid three times as well. She rises from No.8 in the world to No.4 as a result of her victory.

“I feel great that I could defend this title,” Halep told reporters after the mach. “It means a lot because it's very big and gives me confidence for the bigger tournaments.”

Halep ran off the final four games of the opening set and the first two of the second set, but Mladenovic, playing in her first Premier Mandatory final, answered back and claimed the set in a tiebreaker. It was a low point for Halep who let her frustrations show on court—something she has been trying to contain after being reprimanded by her coach Darren Cahill about her behavior during an on-court coaching meeting at Miami this spring.

Halep told reporters this week that Cahill had almost ended their relationship because he was so angry about what he perceived to be a lack of effort from her during her loss to Johanna Konta in the quarterfinals.

“I feel that actually I have the game to win big tournaments,” Halep said. “I have just to be consistent mentally. Today I struggled a little bit. But in the end, I was stronger. I was better mentally. I'm proud actually that I could stay there focused.”

Halep would right the ship, breaking for 2-1 and 5-2 in the third set to win going away. It was her second victory in five lifetime matches with Mladenovic.

After the match there was some controversy when embattled Romanian Ilie Nastase was part of the ceremony, posing for pictures with a smiling Halep as she held the trophy.

The decision to allow Nastase, who has been provisionally suspended by the ITF for bad behavior during a Fed Cup tie, to take part in the trophy ceremony by Ion Tiriac was criticized by WTA CEO Steve Simon.


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