Former World No. 1 Simona Halep targets a spot in the Australian Open fourth round when she faces the feisty Yulia Putintseva for the first time on Saturday.
Simona Halep ?? vs Yulia Putintseva ?? Match Info
Date: Saturday January 25
Tournament: Australian Open R3
Court: Rod Laver Arena
Time: 12.30pm local time (1.30am GMT)
Simona Halep vs Yulia Putintseva Head-to-Head
Simona Halep vs Yulia Putintseva Match Preview
Seeking a return to the Australian Open final this fortnight, Halep has navigated herself into the third round without dropping a set – but she certainly hasn’t had things her own way.
The reigning Wimbledon champion was in an almighty battle in the opening round against Jennifer Brady, who beat Maria Sharapova and Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago. Halep was twice down a break in the opening set and suffered what could have been a nasty fall on her wrist, but the Romanian ultimately survived to dig out a tiebreak before running away with the match in the second, 7-6(5) 6-1.
Halep was never in any real danger in her second round encounter against British qualifier Harriet Dart on Thursday night, but she did find herself in some nervous moments towards the end of the match. Halep was dominant in the first set and raced away to a 4-0 lead in the second, with Dart finding it tough to find ways to hurt the fourth seed with her limited power. However, the World No. 164 began to work the angles and frustrate Halep into error, clawing her way back to 5-4 to make a match of it. The Romanian managed to regroup though, closing it out 6-2 6-4 to book her spot in the third round.
“It was not easy at all,” Halep said. “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.”
After winning her second Grand Slam at Wimbledon last year, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets in the final, Halep struggled for the rest of 2019, failing to make a semi-final in her next six tournaments and losing two of the three matches she played at the WTA Finals, with her only win coming against an injured Bianca Andreescu.
Reunited with Darren Cahill for 2020, Halep launched her season in Adelaide, where she lost in straight sets in the quarter-finals to Aryna Sabalenka, so it’s safe to say the Romanian didn’t bring great form or momentum into the Australian Open. However, Halep is battling away in Melbourne and she will need to bring all that fight into a third round showdown with one of the tour’s ultimate competitors.
Yulia Putintseva is arguably the most fiery player on the WTA Tour and definitely one of the biggest fighters. At just 5’4”, Putintseva has a massive heart to make up for her lack of height, and she showcased all of her fighting qualities in the Australian Open second round on Thursday night, toiling away for three hours until 11.00pm local time to beat last year’s semi-finalist Danielle Collins by a 6-4 2-6 7-5 scoreline. Putintseva had lost 0-6 1-6 to Collins in Brisbane just two weeks ago, but she stepped it up big time in Melbourne, refusing to be beaten from the back of the court as she bounced back from failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the decider to do it at the second time of asking. The 25-year-old is in great form this week having also defeated the tricky Su-Wei Hsieh – who has had some big wins in Melbourne and Grand Slams over the last couple of seasons – in straight sets in the opening round.
One of three women from Kazakstan to make the third round at the Australian Open, along with Elena Rybakina and Zarina Diyas, Putintseva has enjoyed an excellent start to the season, having also beaten Donna Vekic in Brisbane. Putintseva is continuing on from her career-best year in 2019, where she won her maiden WTA title in Nurnberg and beating World No. 2 Naomi Osaka twice during the grass season in Birmingham, and more importantly, Wimbledon. The 25-year-old registered a 29-26 overall record and ended the season at No. 34 in the world.
Simona Halep vs Yulia Putintseva Prediction
These two have never played before and I’m intrigued to see how this match-up plays out. Halep is obviously the more accomplished by far, but she’s not playing at her best right now and has had lapses that some better players would have taken advantage of in her first two rounds. Putintseva will throw absolutely everything she has into this match, and if Halep is off in any way, she will be right in this. In saying that, I think Halep will be able to dig this one out, but it might turn into a big battle.