Halep had lost three of her previous four matches against Mladenovic

Romanian third seed Simona Halep retained her Madrid Open title with a three-set win over France’s Kristina Mladenovic in a gripping final.

Halep, playing her third Madrid final in four years, held off a Mladenovic fightback to win 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2.

Mladenovic, seeded 17th, forced a deciding set despite appearing to struggle with a back injury.

Halep’s frustration was clear when she kicked her racquet into the path of a ball boy and received a code violation.

However, the world number eight came through to clinch victory after two hours and 43 minutes.

She has now won 22 of her last 25 matches on clay and will head into the French Open later this month as one of the favourites for the title.

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