Underdog rolls to New Haven Open crown

Caroline Wozniacki dominated the New Haven Open for four years straight starting in 2008, but for the second year in a row, a new champion was crowned on Saturday in the Center Stadium at Yale.

Nineteenth-ranked Simona Halep of Romania defeated defending champion Petra Kvitova in straight sets 6–2, 6–2 in the final WTA event before the U.S. Open this week.

“I played beautiful tennis here,” Halep said in an interview after her victory. “I beat great players, top players. I really enjoy this moment. It’s very special to me.”

Halep knocked off Kvitova, the 10th-ranked player in the world, for her fourth career WTA tournament victory. All four wins came this past year, though this was her first victory on a hard surface.

Halep reached the final by knocking off fourth-seeded former champion Wozniacki in straight sets 6–2, 7–5 in the semifinals, while Kvitova defeated Klára Zakopalová in her semifinal match. The third-seeded Kvitova only surrendered a single game in that match and was heavily favored going into the final.

After falling behind 1–2 in the first set, Halep began to take over the match. She rattled off nine wins in a row to take the first set and went up 4–0 in the second before Kvitova broke onto the scoreboard.

“I tried my best,” Kvitova said. “But it wasn’t working.”

Although Kvitova’s serve was clocked as high as 107 miles per hour in the stadium, she was unable to overpower Halep. The Romanian’s victory propelled her from No. 23 to No. 19 in the world, the highest ranking of her career.

Halep’s Open win is her first at the WTA-premier level, the highest of the four levels of WTA competition. The New Haven tournament, formerly known as the Pilot Pen International, is part of the Emirates Airlines U.S. Open Series.

“I’m more happy than the other tournaments I’ve won,” Halep said in her postgame press conference. “This feels bigger for sure.”

Halep secured the victory in style, blowing her match point serve past a lunging Kvitova for an ace.

Halep dropped just one set in her march to the title, when she fell 3–6 in the first set of her second round match against world No. 20 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

The Romanian started her tournament run with a straight sets victory over the Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova 6–2, 6–1.

Her closest set of the tournament came in her quarterfinal contest against Ekaterina Makarova, when Halep won in the tiebreaker 7–6 (6). Makarova had been No. 25 in the WTA rankings, but fell to No. 26 in the most recent poll.

Yale President Peter Salovey presented the trophy to Halep at center court.

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