NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Simona Halep doesn't speak perfect English, but she knew what words to use when describing her game at the New Haven Open.
"I played very beautiful tennis today," Halep said. "I was enjoying every moment." The 21-year-old Romanian dominated defending champion Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-2 Saturday to win the final WTA tuneup for next week's U.S. Open.
Halep earned her fourth career win, but her first in a premiere tournament. All have come since June. The 23rd-ranked player improved to 29-5 in her last 34 matches (31-5 counting qualifying matches).
"I'm just enjoying every match," she said. "I try my best and I'm more aggressive now. I hit the ball stronger than before. I just take pleasure and I'm relaxed on court." She broke the 2011 Wimbledon champion in four consecutive service games. The first break gave her a 3-2 lead in the first set. The fourth put her up 3-0 in the second as she took control of the match.
Kvitova had a chance to take charge early in match, up 2-1 and 15-40 on Halep's serve. But Halep won the next three points to save that game. She was down 40-30 in the next game before getting her first service break when Kvitova sent a cross-court forehand just wide.
"She played just really good shots in that moment," Kvitova said. "That was turning the match around, I think." The Czech star never recovered. Halep didn't give her a chance, committing just four unforced errors in the first set and one in the second set. She put in 74 percent of her first serves and won 78 percent of them.
She converted four of her five break points. The ninth-ranked Kvitova was 0-for-4 on her break chances. She had 25 unforced errors and won just 32 of the match's 90 points. Halep closed the match by holding Kvitova without a point in the final game, serving an ace, dropping her racket and throwing her arms into the air.
"Everything is perfect here," she said. The victory will move her to No. 19 when the rankings are released on Monday. Her run through New Haven also included victories over Daniela Hantuchova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Ekaterina Makarova and four-time New Haven champion Caroline Wozniacki.
Halep has played in the U.S. Open three times, making it to the second round twice. She hopes to do better this time. "I think I will play good there also," she said. "I just want to be relaxed because it's good feeling now, good moment for me. I want just to live this great moment."
She took home $117,000 along with the trophy. Kvitova, who earned $62,300, was trying to win the same tournament in consecutive years for the first time in her career. "It was first time for me to defend a title and be in the final," she said. "That's a good sign actually for me. I will try to take the positive things from this tournament because it was great matches for me."
The tournament, which began as a men's event in 1990, faces an uncertain future. Its five biggest sponsors are in the final year of their three-year deals. Attendance has been steadily declining. Just 45,796 fans attended this week, down from 76,480 in 2010, the last year the ATP players were also here, and 53,004 a year ago.
But Anne Worcester, the tournament's director, said ticket revenue actually increased over last year, and she is optimistic sponsorship deals will be finalized to keep the event in New Haven.