Simona Halep survives date with Destanee to reach Australian Open second round
Simona Halep, world No 1 and top seed, flirted with another early exit from the Australian Open before rallying to reach the second round with a 7-6(5) 6-1 win over local teenager Destanee Aiava.tennis Updated: Jan 16, 2018 15:59 IST
It was far from perfect and ideal but world number one Simona Halep avoided a big scare as she outlasted local teenager Destanee Aiava 7-6 (5), 6-1 to reach the Australian Open second round.
The Australian Open has never been a happy hunting ground for Halep, who suffered successive first-round exits in 2016 and 2017.
And the Romanian star was facing another early elimination at Melbourne Park when 17-year-old Aiava powered her way to a 5-2 lead and a pair of set points after chest discomfort had forced her off the court for treatment.
But Halep – who rolled her left ankle in a worrying moment in the second set – dug deep to battle into the next round, though the two-time quarter-finalist appeared in discomfort between points.
Aiava looked overawed early but the powerful teenager eventually settled and reeled off three successive games for a 3-1 lead.
Halep, however, managed to stem the tide and halt the hard-hitting Australian by breaking back in the next game.
But Halep never looked comfortable, forced to rush her shots as Aiava fended off three break points to take a commanding 5-2 lead.
Just as Aiava was about to serve for the set, she required off-court treatment after complaining of chest problems.
Aiava returned to the court a shadow of herself, zapped of energy and momentum – even forgetting the score – and Halep pounced, saving two set points as she won three consecutive games to level the match.
Despite her body language fading, Aiava refused to surrender to force a tie-break but Halep’s experience paid off in the opening set.
And Halep – seeking her maiden major following two runner-up trophies at the French Open – continued where she left off in the second set, despite hurting her ankle which required further strapping and saw her walk gingerly between points, as a deflated Aiava bowed out.
First Published: Jan 16, 2018 12:29 IST