Simona Halep says her dream is to someday become a top-10 tennis player, and she is doing her part this summer to help make that happen.
Halep beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-5 on Friday night to reach the New Haven Open final. The 21-year-old Romanian will be seeking her fourth title after winning three times on the WTA Tour since June.
”I have big confidence in me now,” she said.
She will face defending champion Petra Kvitova. The Czech star beat countrywoman Klara Zakopalova 6-0, 6-1 for her eighth consecutive match victory in New Haven.
Halep, currently ranked 23rd, is now 28-5 in her last 33 matches (30-5 counting qualifying matches). It is a string that began in Rome in May when she was ranked 64th in the world and made the semifinals.
She expects her rank to rise to 21 on Monday.
”I’ll try to do my best to get in top 20, because it’s first step,” she said. ”It’s very hard, I know, but I have to keep going my hard work and to try to be in top 20 as soon as possible. ”It’s my dream.”
Halep got the first of her six services breaks in the first game of the match, and appeared to be in complete control when she broke the Danish star again to open the second set.
But Wozniacki kept fighting. She broke back, and did it again after dropping her serve to Halep in the set’s fifth game.
Halep kept the pressure on and broke again to take a 6-5 lead, using a bit of luck. The 21-year-old mishit a return that floated high and into the middle of the court. But Wozniacki hit what appeared to be an easy overhead smash well wide.
”I don’t know how I missed that by like a mile,” she said. ”It was a pretty crucial point as well, so pretty disappointing there.”
Wozniacki saved two match points to get to deuce on Halep’s final serve, but the Romanian put a backhand cross court for a winner to take the match.
The loss was just the second for Wozniacki in 25 career matches in New Haven, where she is a four-time champion. Her only other defeat came a year ago when she was forced to retire from the semifinals because of a knee injury.
”It’s a very like empty feeling in a way, because I’ve been so used to winning here and I love winning,” she said.
Halep won her three titles in Europe, two on clay and another on grass. Her best previous showing in the U.S. Open series was in Cincinnati, where she was eliminated in the quarterfinals last week.
”But now I’m playing really good on hard (courts), too,” she said. ”So I don’t know which one is my favorite. I like all the surfaces now.”
Kvitova, who had fought through three, three-set matches en route to her semifinal, dominated Zakopalova in a meeting that lasted only 50 minutes.
”I played my game, finally today,” she said. ”I played aggressively. I can improve my serve. I had some double faults again, so I can still improve.”
That might be hard for Zakopalova to believe. Kvitova won 53 of the 76 points in the match.
Zakopalova earned only three points in the second set before holding serve and closing to 5-1 with her only game win. She finished with 10 points in the set.
Kvitova ended things on her serve, striking an ace on the final point.
”She just played fantastic tennis today without any mistakes,” Zakopalova said. ”I think everything was working for her, so I have to just congratulate her, wish her good luck because she was the better player today, for sure.”
Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, has never won the same tournament in consecutive years. She would like to add that feat to an already impressive resume.