Simona Halep of Romania defeated Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova to win the women’s singles crown at 2016 Mutua Madrid Masters but top-seeded women’s doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis fell at the final hurdle against Frenchwomen Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. In men’s singles semifinals on Saturday, Andy Murray saw off Spain’s Rafael Nadal in straight sets to set up the title-game showdown with world no.1 and top seed Novak Djokovic. In the men’s doubles final on Sunday, India’s Rohan Bopanna and Romanian Florin Mergea will take on Netherlands’ Jean-Julien Rojer and Romania’s Horia Tecau.
Romania’s Simona Halep began the 2016 season as world no.2 but slipped to no.7 after a poor run of form. On Saturday, however, she played solidly against the pocket-rocket Slovak Dominika Cibulkova and clinched the women’s singles crown with a 6-2, 6-4 win. When new rankings are announced on Monday, Halep would have jumped up two spots to become world no.5. But Halep should consider herself lucky to win at Madrid, where top women’s seeds were absent for one reason or another. Serena Williams couldn’t start because of flu, Victoria Azarenka withdrew after the second round and Agnieszka Radwanska, Garbine Muguruza and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber fell early. In a strange quirk of fate, Halep was the last women’s seed standing, by the time the draw entered the quarterfinals. Against Cibulkova, Halep began brilliantly and raced to a 5-1 first-set lead before the Slovak showed some resistance. Halep took the first set 6-2 but the score-line doesn’t tell that the Romanian had three break points against her. Cibulkova fought harder in the second set but an early break of serve by Halep clinched the issue for her as she walked off with a 6-2, 6-4 victory in an hour and 20 minutes.
In women’s doubles final, India’s Sania Mirza and Switzerland’s Martina Hingis failed to find the rhythm and lost to the French pair of Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic 4-6, 4-6. The Indo-Swiss pair played well in patches but lapsed into errors on crucial points. Garcia/Mladenovic started off well and obtained two consecutive breaks of serves against Sania/Hingis in the first set. Though Sania/Hingis fought back to equalize at 3-3, they were broken again before the Frenchwomen took the first set at 6-4. Garcia/Mladenovic made another great start in second set and broke Sania/Hingis early. However the Indo-Swiss duo had a chance to bounce back, when they held three break points against Garcia/Mladenovic. But the Frenchwomen fought back to hold their serve and carried the momentum to carve out a well-deserved 6-4, 6-4 victory.
In Saturday’s first men’s singles semifinal, Andy Murray silenced his critics by beating the king-of-clay despite holding just one-win record against the 9 times Roland Garros champion. Murray began well and raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set. While Nadal fought back to level the scores at 5-5, Murray found another break to lead 6-5 and served out the 12th game to love to win at 7-5. In the second set, Nadal applied pressure and Murray had to save seven break points in his first four service games. The Scot not only survived but found a break himself for a 4-2 lead. Just as Murray prepared to serve for the set at 5-3, Nadal broke him to keep the contest alive. Finally, the Spaniard threw in the towel as Murray entered the final with a 7-5, 6-4 win to take on top-seeded Novak Djokovic.
In his semifinal against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Djokovic had to work pretty hard before prevailing 6-3, 7-6. The first set score-line is deceptive as the Japanese pressed Djokovic hard in the first three service games. Playing a powerful baseline game, Nishikori won 14 of 19 points from there and pocketed the first 10 winners. In the opening game, Djokovic was down 0-40 on his serve but survived because the Japanese committed a few errors himself. Djokovic found a break in the 8th game and that gave him the first set. Nishikori had the upper hand at the start of the second set as he led 2-1. Djokovic was down 0-30 in his service game but his resilience worked in his favor. The Serb converted his third break chance in the fifth game. Just when it looked that victory will come easy for the world no.1, Nishikori changed gears. The Japanese fought from the brink as Djokovic led 5-4, 40-0. From there, the Japanese reeled off 13 points out of the next 18 and pulled ahead at 6-5. As the set slipped into the tiebreak, Djokovic converted his fifth match point for victory in a match that lasted almost 2 hours.
In the men’s doubles semifinals, defending champions Rohan Bopanna of India/Florin Mergea of Romania edged out fourth-seeded Croatia’s Ivan Dodig/Brazil’s Marcelo Melo 7-5, 6-7, 12-10 and entered the final to set up the title clash with third-seeded Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer/Romanian Horia Tecau. The Dutch-Romanian duo ended the 16-match winning streak of Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut in the other semifinal by handing them a 6-2, 7-6 defeat.
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