Mertens surprises Halep for title

Elise Mertens celebrates victory. — AFP

DOHA — Belgium's Elise Mertens claimed the biggest win of her career Saturday, surprisingly coming from a set down to beat world number three Simona Halep and clinch the Qatar Open.

The world No. 21 won 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, despite being outclassed in the first set, overcoming an eight-minute medical timeout for back pain in the second set, and losing 18 consecutive points at one stage in the match.

An overwhelmed Mertens said after her victory over the French Open champion: "Simone is a great player, everybody worked hard and it's nice to get the trophy."

Her win, in a little over two hours, was her third victory over a top ten player in Doha this week, and her second over a Grand Slam champion, as she beat Angelique Kerber in the semifinals.

Qatar is the fifth title of Mertens' career but notably her first at a Premier-level event.

Mertens had started nervously, lost her opening service game, and the first set in just 32 minutes.

At 2-0 down in the second, it looked like it was going to turn into a routine victory for Halep.

But Mertens broke back, then called for medical attention and was the stronger player for the remainder of the game.

A clearly fading Halep, who played in the Fed Cup last weekend when she led Romania into the semifinals for the first time, also called for medical assistance for treatment on her right foot.

"Honestly, I wanted to lift this beautiful trophy but Elise deserved it very much," said Halep, who won the Qatar title in 2014.

Despite her defeat she will head back to number two in the rankings on the back of her performances in Doha. — AFP