Svitolina Defends Italian Open Title as Halep Injured Again

Elina Svitolina cruised past Simona Halep 6-0, 6-4 to successfully defend her Italian Open title. 
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ROME (AP) Elina Svitolina faced little resistance from Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win Sunday to defend her Italian Open title.

Just like in last year's final, Halep appeared bothered by an injury.

The top-ranked Romanian called a trainer onto the court for an apparent back problem while trailing 2-3 in the second set then exited the court for treatment under a medical timeout.

''I was a little bit too stiff with my body and I couldn't stay in the rallies,'' Halep said. ''The muscles were stiff. I couldn't run.''

Last year, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a set lead to Svitolina.

This time, Svitolina didn't face a single break point in a match that lasted just 67 minutes.

''It's amazing that I could come and defend my title here,'' Svitolina said. ''It's really something very, very special for me.''

Halep said her physical problems were the result of a long three-set win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals a day earlier

''Every time I play against Sharapova the ball is coming very flat and I bend down a lot,'' Halep said.

The fourth-ranked Svitolina became the first woman to defend her title at the Foro Italico since Serena Williams accomplished the feat in 2013 and 2014. The Ukrainian picked up a winner's check of 507,000 euros (nearly $600,000) for her 12th career title.

Svitolina improved to 4-2 in her career against Halep, who had already secured the No. 1 ranking for another week by reaching the semifinals.

''She deserved to win for sure,'' Halep said. ''She didn't miss. I missed.''

Later, Rafael Nadal was aiming for a record-extending eighth Rome title against defending champion Alexander Zverev.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

''In a Grand Slam it's very tricky,'' said Svitolina, who has never made it beyond the quarterfinals at a major. ''But I'm definitely going to Roland Garros on a high note.''