Tired Halep offers little resistance
"Simona, Simona", the crowd chanted as Simona Halep went 2-1 up against Serena Williams in the first set.
At the start of the singles final of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global last night, the momentum was firmly with the Romanian.
After serving two aces to go 30-0 up, the 23-year-old had looked on course to take the fourth game.
But things quickly went pear-shaped after a double-fault, as she was broken by Williams and eventually lost the set 3-6.
The 10,000-capacity crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tried to rally behind the young challenger as she prepared for the second set against the world No. 1.
But the exhausted world No. 4 had nothing left in her tank, as the two-time defending champion romped to a 6-0 whitewash in the second set to win the tournament for the third consecutive time.
But behind Halep's crushing defeat, there was the irony of it all.
She had thrashed the 33-year-old Williams 6-0, 6-2 in the group stages but, by losing one set in her 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 3-6 loss to Ana Ivanovic, it allowed the American to squeeze into the semi-finals.
Serb Ivanovic would have taken Williams' place had she won in straight sets.
Asked at the post-match media conference if she regretted taking a set off Ivanovic, Halep said: "No, I have no regrets because I did my job on court against Ivanovic... I never thought that I have to lose in two sets against her.
"That was the chance. She (Williams) deserves to win the title, she was much better."
Halep was definitely a pale shadow of the aggressive and clinical player she was in the group stages and she admitted that she was nervous and tired going into last night's final.
Asked about the difference between those two matches against Williams, Halep said: "It was different because I couldn't stay... focused to fight for every point.
"I was tired after the first set and my arm was a little bit down... I couldn't open the court to play more aggressive.
"I think I am tired because I played many matches this year, and there was a lot of pressure in every tournament.
"The second set wasn't too good (for me), but she played really well and she was hitting the balls very strong. Everything went well for her today.
"I expected a tough match and I knew she would play better... but still I think I did a great job and I am happy."
The Constanta native has been tipped by tennis legend Billie Jean King as a champion in the making, but Halep knows she is far from being the finished product.
"I'm glad to hear (King's comments)... it is important to hear those good things about me. I'm still young, I have to improve more and win more matches, more titles if I can," said the diminutive Romanian.
"I have to maybe work more in the gym to be stronger, but I knew I was tired today."
Halep hopes to remain in the top 10 next year, and hopefully win a Grand Slam, but those targets can take a backseat for now.
A tiring season has come to a close, and it's time for a breather.
On her post-season plans, Halep said: "Holiday. I go home and take a rest. I will rest for two or three weeks, and then I will train again for next year."
When a journalist asked if she would go out and celebrate her heroics this week, she replied: "I will. I will not forget that I beat Serena this week."