Simona Halep survives date with Destanee to reach Australian Open second round
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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
OmniSport, Melbourne
Australian Open,Simona Halep,Destanee Aiava
Simona Halep of Romania celebrates after winning a crucial point against Australia's Destanee Aiava during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne on Tuesday.(AP)

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