Simona Halep takes Dubai Championships title

Simona Halep defeats Karolina Pliskova in two sets in the Dubai Championship final

Top-seeded Simona Halep earned her second title of the year by beating 17th-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday in the United Arab Emirates.

Halep benefited from a large contingent of Romanian compatriots, who constantly cheered “Si-mon-a” from the stands.

“It's really nice to hear your name during the changeover,” Halep said. “It's amazing that they can come to support me. I see the love, you know.”

Halep also won in Shenzhen, China, last month, and this marked her second Premier 5 title, the highest level of WTA events after the Grand Slams. The previous was the Qatar Open a year ago.

Pliskova was playing this week at a career-high ranking of No. 18. Next week the Czech will move up to No. 12.

“I still can't imagine myself, I'm 12 in the ranking,” Pliskova said. “I just hope I'm going to start to feel like I belong there.”

Despite the loss, Pliskova added five aces to her yearly tally. She has a tour-leading 149 in a tour-leading 22 matches.

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Rafael Nadal must bounce back from a late night if he's going to make the final of the Rio Open.

Top-seeded Nadal played until 3:18 in the morning on Saturday before beating No. 6 Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. The match almost set a record. The ATP says one non-Grand Slam match ended slightly later — 3:24 a.m. in Tokyo in 2006.

Nadal will have only about 16 hours to recover before facing No. 4 Fabio Fognini of Italy in the semis.

In an early semifinal Saturday in the ATP-WTA event, No. 6 Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia defeated No. 2 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Top-seeded Sara Errani faces Johanna Larsson in another semifinal, and David Ferrer plays Andreas Haider-Maurer.

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Local favorite Gael Monfils maintained his perfect record against fourth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final of the Open 13 in Marseille, France, where he will meet countryman Gilles Simon.

The seventh-seeded Monfils, who also beat the Spaniard in the second round last week in Rotterdam, put Bautista Agut under pressure with excellent return games, and converted four of his five break points to produce an easy 6-4, 6-2 win.

Simon took a slower start against Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine and rallied to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory after hitting nine aces.

It will be the first all-French final in the coastal city since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Michael Llodra six years ago.

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