Simona Halep launches her 2020 season on Tuesday when she faces dangerous Australian, Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round of the Adelaide International.
Simona Halep vs Ajla Tomljanovic is live from Adelaide on Tuesday, 14 January from 6:30pm local time/ 8:00pm GMT
Back with coach Darren Cahill after the latter went on a one-year hiatus, Halep will hope to recreate some of the great memories she had with the Australian coach. It was under Cahill’s guidance that Halep first became No. 1 in the world, and claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at the 2018 French Open.
Of course, Halep was not shabby at all without Cahill in her corner, as she won her second major title at Wimbledon last year, outclassing Serena Williams in the final to complete a sensational fortnight at the All England Club.
Wimbledon was Halep’s solitary title in 2019, but she also made finals in Madrid and Doha, semi-finals in Miami, and quarter finals in Dubai, Eastbourne, Toronto and Roland Garros. She would have been particularly gutted with that result at the French Open, where she surrendered her title with a meek 6-2 6-4 defeat to American young gun, Amanda Anisimova. The youngster was brilliant on the day, but Halep would have backed herself to take down Anisimova on a clay court.
She recovered from that nicely to win Wimbledon, but he post-Wimbledon form was unremarkable. Halep was hampered by injury problems in the second half of last year, and won just seven more matches after her Wimbledon triumph. The former world No. 1 has not won consecutive matches since her quarter final run in Toronto in August.
The 27-year-old began 2019 as the No. 1 player in the world, but she fell as low as eighth during the course of the season, and finished at No. 4.
Halep has already played a doubles’ match in Adelaide this week, partnering compatriot, Raluca Olaru in a three-set defeat to Kveta Peschke and Demi Schuurs, but Tuesday’s meeting with Tomljanovic will be her first singles outing of the season.
Tomljanovic has already registered a couple of wins this year. She reached the second round of last week’s Brisbane International, beating Priscilla Hon before losing to eventual champion, Karolina Pliskova, whom she dragged to three sets, while she got off the mark in Adelaide with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Yulia Putintseva in the first round.
The 26-year-old made a slow start against Putintseva, but she recovered from an early break, and saved two set points in the opening set before running away with the second set.
Tomljanovic is attempting to reach her first WTA quarter final since September, when she made the last four in Zhengzhou. Her best result from 2019 was a runner-up finish in Hua Hin, losing to Dayana Yastremska, while she made another semi-final in Rabat, and quarter finals in Brisbane and Nottingham.
Considering where she was a few years ago, when her ranking was effectively wiped out following shoulder surgery in 2016, Tomljanovic has done quite well to become a stable top-100 player in the last couple of seasons. She has enjoyed an unbroken spell in the top 100 since January 2018, peaking at a career-high No. 39 in April 2019. The Australian has pulled off three top-ten wins in her career, two of them coming in 2019, against Aryna Sabalenka in Miami, and Kiki Bertens in Zhengzhou.
Can the world No. 52 claim another high profile scalp when she faces Halep on Tuesday?
“I’m up for the challenge”, Tomljanovic said. “You want to play these matches, play against the top players. Yeah, what a better way than to do it here in Adelaide?”
Halep has won both of their previous meetings but the two matches went into final sets. It’s a dangerous season opener for the Romanian, especially since Tomljanovic has already played and won a couple of singles matches, and is already into some sort of rhythm.
Halep is the favourite, but the hard-hitting Tomljanovic will make it very tough. This could be yet another three-setter between these two, but once Halep gets into her stride, the world No. 4 should be too consistent for the home favourite.