Serena Williams and Simona Halep battled for the 2015 Cincinnati title.

The Setting

Having completed her second “Serena Slam” at Wimbledon, her fourth major victory in a row dating back to the 2014 US Open, Serena Williams had more history in mind as she entered the 2015 summer hard court season. A win at the US Open would give her the calendar-year Grand Slam, one of the rarest accomplishments in the game.

Coming off a semifinal loss in Canada, the American next played the Premier 5 event in Cincinnati, where she was the defending champion. Seeded first at the tournament, Williams breezed through her first two matches before being pushed by Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals in a rematch of the 2014 final. Williams came through that and the semifinal round to face the third seed, Simona Halep, in the final. Coming off a final-round showing in Canada, where she had to retire against Belinda Bencic, the Romanian overcame some early struggles in Cincinnati to reach her fifth championship of 2015—all on hard courts.

The Final

After getting a walkover against Williams in the Indian Wells semifinals earlier in the year, Halep fell to Williams 7-5 in the third set in the Miami semifinals a few weeks later. Halep entered this match with a 1-4 head-to-head record in matches actually played, but entered this final determined to improve upon that as she raced out to a 3-1 lead. However, Williams soon settled into a groove and won the next five games to take the opener 6-3.

In the second set, Halep racked up numerous break points early on before converting on one of them. In a near repeat of the first, though, Williams went on another run, taking four games in a row. The two eventually found themselves in a tiebreaker and in the mini-frame, up 6-5, Williams clinched the title when Halep hit a drop shot into the net, giving the world No. 1 her fifth tournament victory of the year.

Notable Numbers

1

Williams became the first player to defend the title at the tournament since its return to the WTA calendar in 2004.

3

Halep reached her third career final in the U.S., with her record dropping to 2-1 in those matches.

5

Williams won a hard-court title during the summer stretch leading up to the US Open for the fifth straight year.