A fight that didn’t look to have an end came to a close at the Western & Southern Open late Thursday night. Simona Halep showed tremendous endurance to defeat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Grandstand court at the Linder Family Tennis Center.
The finalist at the Rogers Cup seemed to recover from her unfortunate retirement handing Belinda Bencic the championship. The 23 year old Romanian sweltered through the heat to throw in the towel during the last set to give the 18 year old Swiss plenty of attention. Halep continued to look tired as she moved into the Cincinnati tournament with just two days rest. She made it by the skin of her teeth defeating Kristina Mladenovic in three long sets.
With her history over the German winning the last four straight, Halep hoped she would have the strength to maintain her dominance over Petkovic. The Bosnian native took down Julia Goerges and Camila Giorgi only to find herself against the number three player on earth. Though an upset loomed over by chance, it was up to Petkovic on whether she could secure such a feat to be true.
Halep took the first game in the match with some considerable opposition from Petkovic. The German held through two breaks before losing to the Romanian. Petkovic kept the heat on breaking Halep on the serve to level early. The situation remained the same with both girls trading off victories against one another. The difference maker was in the hands of Petkovic who always got out front before Halep was to respond. After eight decisions, it was still tied with the German back on serve to try and take the important lead change of the set.
Petkovic used her power to out run Halep out of the ninth game before winning the double set point in Game Ten to win 6-4. In the 45 minute set, there was no real difference in what both ladies were recording on the stats. Halep had a high serve percentage leading by a single margin. The same could be said for their unforced errors as they were many but not lopsided. The German committed three double faults but you would have never guessed with the way she was playing.
The same was said about the second set as Petkovic took the lead but didn’t expect such competition. Halep fired back hard forcing deuce that seemed to go on for ages. In the end, it was the number three seed that remained vigilant to capture the game point. Halep took the lead with a triple break on Petkovic showing life in her racket.
The two once again got into a stalemate where the German tied the set at two, which led to a lead change similar to the first set. This time it was the Romanian taking point to gain the opening lead on the tie. The victory in Game Seven ended another long marathon at deuce getting her Romanian contingency into the match screaming cheers as support. The chants seemed to work as she opened the gap for the first time in her favor taking a 5-3 to play out the set.
It wouldn’t come on the break at Petkovic forced her way back to close in on Halep threatening to take the match. Halep knew that winning the set was imperative. She smartly played tight against the German to win the set point on an angled shot that forced a deciding third set. It took over an hour to finish the set indicating that the match as a whole would be enduring for both players.
Halep saw the trainer for a fourth time in the match as her problem that caused her to drop out of the final in Toronto was showing its face once again. With heat not being the problem, it was going to be up to the Romanian to finish strong or face elimination. Her serve percentage said all it needed to firing at 73 percent, landing 14 winners while playing strong near the net.
The opening game of the thing set was nothing short of suspenseful. For nearly 20 minutes, both Halep and Petkovic gave it their all in a tight stalemate. It became clear near the end that the German was losing her composure, which ultimately cost her the game. She made sure to stay ahead of Petkovic notching another game but the German couldn’t be held down for long. Game Three was her moment to impress playing with what little energy she had left and stole one for her benefit.
She got even with Halep in the fourth that once again made the match so important to play hard on. Taking the lead was the Romanian in the fifth that gave her the “Si-mon-a” chants over and over from fans. The sixth was another fight for the game Petkovic had the chance of tying it once more. Her mistakes started to get the best of her that cost her the game point going to Halep to increase her two game lead.
The fights on deuce were getting to Petkovic, as she could not bear down any harder on the Romanian. For a third time, Halep stepped closer to the match victory gaining the fifth win to serve for a spot in the quarterfinal.
On a double match point, Halep earned the win on an unforced error she didn’t realize she won. It was over in 2 hours and 40 minutes as both Petkovic and Halep the drain they felt when they could stop playing for the night. They were 50 minutes short of playing to midnight had the competition continued to be fierce for that amount of time. “It was very difficult,” Halep said during her on court interview. “I don’t know how I won. I’m very tired now, but I just wanted to win and I was fighting till the end and very happy that I could stay very focused.”
Focus is what will be key for the eight players that remain in the tournament. Halep herself will go up in her third straight quarterfinal taking on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who earned a quick victory over Victoria Azarenka earlier.