February 16, 2019 / 6:28 PM / in a month

Mertens stuns Halep to lift Qatar Open title

Tennis - WTA Premier 5 - Qatar Open - Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar - February 16, 2019 Belgium's Elise Mertens in action during the Final against Romania's Simona Halep REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari

DOHA (Reuters) - Belgium’s Elise Mertens rallied from a set down to beat top seed Simona Halep 3-6 6-4 6-3 and clinch her first Premier-level title at the Qatar Open on Saturday.

After both players dropped their opening service game, Halep took control of the encounter by winning 18 consecutive points from 3-3 to clinch the first set.

World number three Halep grabbed an early break in the second set but Mertens responded immediately to get the match back on serve.

Unseeded Mertens held her nerve to fend off two break points in the seventh game before she broke Halep’s serve to love en route to claiming her first set in six played against the Romanian.

With momentum firmly on her side, Mertens claimed a crucial early break in the deciding set and went on to hold off a late Halep surge to win her fifth WTA title.

Mertens, ranked 21 in the world, recorded three top-10 victories in Doha this week, also beating Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.

The 23-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough 2018 season, winning three titles, and has since maintained her steady progress on the WTA tour.

Halep, who helped Romania to their first-ever Fed Cup semi-final last weekend, struggled physically in the closing stages and needed medical assistance for treatment on her right foot.

“Honestly, I wanted to lift this beautiful trophy but Elise deserved it very much,” said Halep, who won the Doha title in 2014.

Writing by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis

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