World No. 3, Simona Halep overcame a tough opponent and an injury scare to battle into the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday night.
The Romanian reached the second round with a 7-6 6-1 victory over American, Jennifer Brady.
Halep trailed for much of the first set, and had to save three set points, but she somehow eked out the set before running away with the rest of the match. The 2018 finalist had an injury scare when she slipped and hurt her wrist towards the end of a dramatic opening set, but she rose above all of that adversity to book her spot in the second round in Melbourne.
“Definitely was a tough match”, assessed Halep. “I knew actually because we played against each other a few months ago, I was prepared to play as much as possible. To be in the second round is a very nice feeling to play here in Australia”.
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) January 21, 2020
There was enough about Brady to suggest that this fixture would not be a straightforward opener for 2018 finalist, Halep. The American went into the match in decent form, having reached the quarter finals in Brisbane, beating Maria Sharapova and world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty in the process. The 24-year-old also had some good memories from her previous trips to the Australian Open, reaching the fourth round in her debut appearance in 2017.
Brady pushed Halep to a final set tie break in their most recent meeting in Toronto last August, and the underdog made a very confident start on Tuesday, striking three clean winners en route a service break in the opening game of the match. The American maintained that advantage through the opening half of the set, but Halep soon began to weave a way back into the contest. The Romanian broke back for 4-4, and appeared to have the momentum heading into the concluding phase of the set, but then came another twist. Serving at 5-5, Halep slipped and hurt her wrist; and lost her serve when play resumed, giving Brady the chance to serve for the first set.
The world No. 3 then called on all her powers of recovery in the next game to get the break back, after saving three set points. Halep edged the ensuing tie break, before pulling away in the second set.
“I found the rhythm a bit better [in the second set], I tried to move her more because in the first set I just stayed in one corner. I was a bit stronger and the serve was better in the second set.”
When Halep reached the Australian Open final in 2018, she suffered an injury scare in her opening match against Destanee Aiava, tumbling and rolling her ankle on that occasion. Interestingly, the Romanian got back up and scored a 7-6 6-1 victory over the young Aussie- the same scoreline she repeated against Brady in her 2020 opener.
“As I remember well in 2018 was the same, probably I can repeat that,” joked Halep. “I don’t know why in the first round always I fall down. Maybe it’s a good sign”.
“It’s too far to think about that. My wrist is pretty painful. I need to chill and recover for the second round.”
Another similarity between 2018 and 2020 is the presence of Darren Cahill in Halep’s box. The pair enjoyed a very successful year in 2018, with Halep winning her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros and earning the year-end No. 1 ranking, but they split at the end of 2018 because Cahill wanted to be with his family.
Not that Halep fared badly without Cahill- she won Wimbledon in 2019- but she is clearly pleased to have the Australian back in her team. She has stated very clearly that she wants to win the Australian Open, and that quest will continue with a second round meeting with a second round meeting with Great Britain’s Harriet Dart on Thursday.