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Halep beats Stephens to win Montreal crown



World number one Simona Halep held her nerve in a roller coaster duel with Sloane Stephens Sunday to win the WTA Montreal crown for the second time .
In a gruelling 2 hr 41 min battle , French Open champion Halep prevailed 7 – 6 ( 8 / 6 ) , 3 -6 , 6 – 4 over Stephens in a repeat of the duo ’ s meeting in the final of Roland Garros earlier this year .
The victory was Halep’ s 18 th career title and her second in Montreal following her success in 2016 .

The 26 -year – old sealed the win with an ace on her fourth match point , capping an enthralling duel marked by several momentum swings .

Halep had taken the first set on a tie -break , after saving four set points against American third seed Stephens .

Halep made the stronger start , dictating rallies from the baseline to race into a 4 – 1 lead after twice breaking Stephens in the opening five games .

Yet reigning US Open champion Stephens rallied superbly to claw her way back into the contest , breaking twice to level at 4 – 4 .

That however proved to be the cue for Halep to respond , breaking back after a net cord sat up invitingly for the Romanian , who crushed a winner into the corner for 5 -4 .

Another poor service game from Halep though gave the initiative back to Stephens , who broke for 5 – 5 and then held for a 6 – 5 lead .

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Stephens appeared to be closing in on the first set in the next game , when a wild forehand from Halep — her 20 th unforced error — handed her opponent two set points .

But Halep dug deep to save both points and then forced the tie – break .

Stephens again looked to be on the brink of the first set after surging into a 5 – 1 lead which soon became 6 – 4 in the tiebreak .

But once again the American was unable to seal the deal , Haleprecovering to win the next four points for 8 – 6 .

Stephens responded brilliantly in the second set however , breaking Haleptwice in the first three games before advancing into a 5 -3 lead .
Once again though Stephens appeared to be on her way to squandering the momentum , wasting three set points in the ninth game before finally converting her to force a decisive third set.

Both players traded early breaks in the decider before Halep secured the 13 th break of the match in the fifth game for a 3 -2 lead .

A hold left her 4 – 2 up and she bagged another break in the seventh game to go 5 -2 ahead when Stephens wearily duffed a straightforward volley into the net .

Stephens refused to go quietly though , saving a match point before breaking for 5 -3 , and then saving two more match points to hold .

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Halep was not to be denied however , thumping down an ace to seal a memorable win on her next service game .

( AFP )

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