Tennis

Simona Halep has chance for a rare double at Miami Open

Simona Halep, from Romania, returns the ball to Camila Giorgi, from Italy, during their third round match at the Day 7 of the Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne on Sunday, March 29, 2015.
Simona Halep, from Romania, returns the ball to Camila Giorgi, from Italy, during their third round match at the Day 7 of the Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne on Sunday, March 29, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

Simona Halep arrived at the Miami Open trying to achieve a feat that only two women in tennis history have accomplished.

The third-seeded Halep, who won a 6-4, 7-5 third-round match against 30th-seeded Camila Giorgi of Italy on Sunday, is attempting to win back-to-back top tier titles at Indian Wells, California, and the Miami Open. Halep captured her 11th title — and the most prestigious of her career — at Indian Wells a week ago.

Kim Clijsters was the last to win both tournaments, which constitutes tennis’s version of March Madness, in the same year in 2005.

Remarkably, Steffi Graf won both tournaments in the same year twice during her career, in 1994 and 1996.

Halep, a 23-year-old from the Black Sea port city of Constanta, Romania, isn’t surprised that so few players have hoisted both trophies in the same year.

“If you win a title, it’s really tough to play next week again, to start another tournament,” Halep said. “You are very happy when you win a title, and then you have to think already to the next match, the next first round. You don’t have time to celebrate or to be happy too much.”

Last year, Halep became a Grand Slam finalist for the first time at the French Open and followed that result with a semifinal showing at Wimbledon. She was the first Romanian woman in 34 years to reach a Grand Slam final — Virginia Ruzici, who happens to be Halep’s sports agent, was a French Open finalist in 1980.

Halep will be making her first appearance in the fourth round when she faces 15th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Pennetta defeated former two-time Miami champion Victoria Azarenka in the third round 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6).

Bencic a snowbird

Swiss teen Belinda Bencic qualifies as a Florida snowbird by taking up residence each winter in Boca Raton to escape the cold and snow back home.

Bencic, who trains at the Chris Evert Academy when in Florida, moved into the fourth round Sunday courtesy of a 6-4, 7-5 win over German qualifier Tatjana Maria.

“I practice here, so I’m used to the wind and the humidity a little bit,” Bencic said. “It’s harder to play here than Indian Wells because of the wind.”

Bencic, 18, who is coached by her father as well as Martina Hingis’ mother, Melanie Molitor, was a star junior player. In 2013, she won 39 consecutive matches, a stretch that included winning the French Open and Wimbledon junior girls’ titles. She was the runaway winner of the 2013 ITF Junior World champion award.

Last year, Bencic was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year with a ranking move from No. 212 to conclude 2013 to a year-end No. 33 in 2014.

Bencic, who will play Sloane Stephens of Coral Springs next, knows exactly what is the best part of spending time in Boca Raton.

“The shopping, it’s so good,” Bencic said. “The Boca mall is, oh my God, so good. Of course, I have to say I like Victoria Secret and Neiman Marcus because they have good sales, and I love Guess as well.

“And I love the Cheesecake Factory.”

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