It’s an Australian Open rematch in the Dubai semi-finals on Friday as World No. 2 Simona Halep faces the rising Jennifer Brady.
Simona Halep ?? vs Jennifer Brady ?? Match Info
Date: Friday February 21
Tournament: WTA Dubai SF
Court: Centre Court
Time: 7.00pm local time (3.00pm GMT)
Simona Halep vs Jennifer Brady Head-to-Head
Halep leads 2-0
2020 | Australian Open R128 | Halep 7-6(5) 6-1
2019 | Rogers Cup R32 | Halep 4-6 7-5 7-6(5)
Simona Halep vs Jennifer Brady Match Preview
After surviving two torrid battles in order to reach the semi-finals, 2015 Dubai champion Halep now must confront the on-fire Brady in order to return to the final.
Halep has been forced to come from a set down in both her matches so far to advance to the final four, conquering both Australian Open quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur and seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in lengthy three-set battles. The Romanian saved a match point against Jabeur in a dramatic final set tiebreaker in her opening match before successfully avenging her Adelaide defeat to Sabalenka from last month, rallying to subdue the explosive Belarusian by a 3-6 6-2 6-2 scoreline.
“I think I started to play a little bit stronger in the second set and find rhythm,” Halep said on-court after the match.
“It’s always tough to play against her because she’s very strong and hits the ball really, really hard, so I had to play faster, be quicker on court and give everything I had to win. Always, it’s tough against her because she’s a little bit taller than me and she has a lot of power. I just had to block some balls, and to get the initiative to go and open the court.”
Halep is playing her first tournament since the Australian Open, where she advanced to the semi-finals before going down to a resurgent Garbine Muguruza.
The two-time major champion is back working with Darren Cahill this season and is targeting a first non-slam title since the Rogers Cup back in August 2018. Of course, Halep was sensational in demolishing Serena Williams to win the Wimbledon title last season, but regular WTA titles have alluded her for over 12 months now – perhaps this week in Dubai is where she snaps her drought?
Indeed, Halep actually won her fewest amount of matches in a season since 2012 last year, registering a 43-17 record to finish No. 4 in the world. That’s still a very good year, but Halep is used to more silverware. Can the Romanian give herself the chance to play for the trophy in Dubai?
She must find a way past the ridiculously in-form Brady to do so. The American has already won six matches in Dubai this week, qualifying for the main draw before toppling top 20 players in three straight matches. First up on the agenda was a 6-2 6-1 drubbing of former Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, with that result followed by a remarkable comeback against French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, where she came back from 4-6 1-4 down to prevail in three. Brady then continued her magnificent form in the quarter-finals, recovering from a set down to take out Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4, firing 22 winners and saving nine of 10 break points. It’s a testament to how much Brady expects of herself these days that she wasn’t entirely pleased with her performance post-match.
“I wasn’t feeling my best,” she told reporters. “Maybe didn’t play my best tennis, but just found a way to stay in there, compete, come out on top.”
Brady improves her record in 2020 to 11-3, with her only defeats coming against multiple-time slam champions, including Halep, Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The American first cracked the top 100 in 2017 when she qualified for the Australian Open and advanced all the way to the fourth round, while she was also a semi-finalist in Hong Kong to finish that season at No. 64 in the world. However, Brady found the going tougher in 2018 and only won five tour-level matches for the season, subsequently dropping back out of the top 100 as a result. The 24-year-old regrouped in 2019, posting a 15-16 record that included a semi-final run in Nottingham and third round showings in Indian Wells and Beijing, ending the season at No. 56 – and already Brady has taken her game to new levels in 2020 and is shooting towards the top 30 and beyond.
Simona Halep vs Jennifer Brady Prediction
Halep has won both of their previous meetings, but each of them were tight matches, with the Romanian edging Brady in a deciding set tiebreak at the Rogers Cup last year, while she was somewhat fortunate to come back from a break down in the opening set of their Australian Open clash last month before running away with the second. Brady’s improvement this season has been one of the stories of the season, and if she can find ways to dictate with her forehand, she can claim the upset here. Halep is still favourite for me in these conditions, but Brady should force her to the brink.