World number two Simona Halep justified her status as the pre-tournament favorite by winning the Prague Open final on Sunday, beating world number 23 Elise Mertens in straight sets to claim the 21st title of her career and her second of 2020.
Halep, who was playing for the first time since the WTA Tour resumed earlier this month after a five-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, had shown signs of rust early on in the tournament but had not dropped a set in her last two matches and came into the final as a sizeable favorite, though Mertens had won the only final that the two contested in Doha last season.
It seemed early on that the Belgian, seeded third in the Czech capital, could repeat that result as she broke early on for a 2-0 lead, though Halep quickly turned things around as she broke twice for a 3-2 lead. The Romanian saved four break points as she consolidated for 4-2 and then extended her run of games to six, holding serve at 5-2 after a third consecutive break of the Mertens serve to take the opening set.
The final was seemingly running away from Mertens as she dropped a seventh straight game to start the second set, though she managed to halt Halep’s run by breaking back for 1-1. Mertens was broken once again at 2-2 as Halep eased to a 4-2 lead, though the Romanian could not find the opportunity to serve for the match as the Belgian broke back for a second time to level up at 4-4. However, a third break for the Romanian at 5-5 proved decisive as she served out the match to seal a 6-2, 7-5 victory in an hour and 33 minutes.
It may be one of the stranger titles of the Romanian’s career, with the tournament being played in front of a handful of fans due to social distancing, though it is a 21st career title for the former world number one, placing her fifth in terms of titles amongst active players and making her just the second women, after Sofia Kenin, to win multiple titles this season.
Across this fragment season Halep has been one of the most consistent players and would arguably be the favorite for the title if she was to play the US Open, though it seems likely that the former French Open and reigning Wimbledon champion will withdraw. Halep said following the final that she will make a decision about whether to head to the US tomorrow.