Australian Open: Halep holds off Dart to reach third round

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Simona Halep held off a late fightback from Great Britain's Harriet Dart to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.

Halep looked on course for a rapid win when she held a 6-2 5-1 lead, but Dart launched a spirited fightback, and held a break point that would have evened the second set at 5-5. Halep survived that danger and went on to close out the match on her fourth match point.

The Romanian held her first match point when she served for the match at 5-2, but Dart strung together four successive points to hold for 3-5. Spurred by that escape, the Brit swung even more freely and held comfortably in the next game, asking Halep to serve out the match for a second time.

Dart continued to play at a very high level, and pushed Halep hard in the tenth game, but the Wimbledon champion held firm, saving a break back point before finishing off the match after an hour and 18 minutes.

“It was not easy at all,” said Halep, who registered her 90th Grand Slam match win with the victory over Dart. “Even if she doesn’t hit very hard, she has good angles. Her ball doesn’t have that much power to play against. I had to work a little bit more”.

“I was leading pretty well at 5-1. But then, I don’t know what happened, I lost focus a little bit and she started to play freely. She didn’t miss that much. I played a little bit short. Then she controlled me a little bit”.

“But I’m happy that I could hold that last game. That was important.”

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The 2018 finalist had hurt her wrist during her first round victory over American, Jennifer Brady, but there was no sign of the problem on Thursday as she recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since August when she reached the quarter finals of the Rogers Cup.

Halep is into the third round of the Australian Open for the sixth time, and she will next face Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva for a spot in the fourth round.