Simona Halep broke through for a first career title at the Rome Masters on the third time of asking when defending champion Karolina Pliskova quit with a leg injury to hand over a 6-0, 2-1 victory.

The Monday surprise extended the 2020 win streak of Halep to 14 matches, comprising titles in Prague and Dubai back in the pre-COVID shutdown days of February.

Pliskova lasted for just 33 minutes, with the Czech entering the match having won 10 of her last 12 finals; she had been bidding to become the 11th different woman to defend the Rome title.

Victory means that Romania’s Halep, second in the rankings, is closing in on the top position held by Australian Ash Barty, who is unlikely to play any more this season due to the virus pandemic.

Barty has been both unwilling and sometimes unable to leave Oz, having avoided the US Open and will not play Roland Garros which begins on Sunday.

Rome top seed Halep could return to the summit should she win the Paris title; otherwise Barty hangs on.

So hampered was Pliskova that she lost every one of her five service games. Halep now leads the series 8-4, though the Czech had won three of their last four meetings.

Pliskova started the match with her left thigh heavily taped, with Halep taking full advantage by winning 13 of 14 points at one time – including 11 on the trot in the first set.

Pliskova was treated by the trainer after the first set but lasted three more  games in 12 minutes before retiring.

Halep now owns 21 career titles and heads into Roland Garros as a solid title contender. The Romanian lost back-to-back Rome finals to Elina Svitolina in 2017 and 2018.

Main Photo Simona Halep with Rome Masters Trophy by WTA


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