Indian Wells: Simona Halep claimed the biggest title of her career on Sunday, lifting the Indian Wells WTA trophy with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over former champion Jelena Jankovic.

The hard-fought triumph over the former world number one from Serbia made Romania's 23-year-old Halep the first player to win three WTA titles this year. Halep, ranked third in the world, won four of the final five games in the third set to earn the marathon victory in two hours, 37 minutes.

Simona Halep
Simona Halep. Pic/ AFP

"I was a little nervous during the match but I knew I could keep it in my hands. I did really, really great today," Halep said. Halep and Jankovic have a history of playing long, tight matches and Sunday was no different. They have now gone to three sets in all five career meetings with Halep leading the series 4-1. Jankovic, who served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but couldn't close it out, was gracious in defeat.

"My opponent Simona was unbelievable," said Jankovic, who turned 30 last month. "She was running like two dogs, left and right for about three hours and at the end I just couldn't keep up anymore. "She is the younger one and she was too good at the end." Halep advanced to the semi-final on a walkover after Serena Williams cut short her long-awaited Indian Wells return because of a knee injury.

Halep has rocketted up the world rankings in the past few years, going from 64 in May 2013 to her current No. 3. She started the 2015 season with her ninth career title by winning the Shenzhen, China tournament.She followed that with a victory in Dubai and also reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January. She got off to a blistering start to the season, winning nine straight matches and 18 consecutive sets.

Halep broke Jankovic for the ninth and last time in the final game of Sunday's contest as she clinched the premier level title with cross-court forehand winner that Jankovic had no chance on. Both players had difficulty holding their serves throughout as there were a total of 18 breaks.

Jankovic looked dominant in winning the final five games to take the first set but then her serve let her down in the second and third as she won just 12 points in total on her second serve.