The world no. 1 and last year’s Australian Open finalist Simona Halep is through to the third round in Melbourne for the fifth time after a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 win over Sofia Kenin in two hours and 31 minutes.
Seeking only the second win since the last August, Halep looked a little bit rusty on the court just like against Kaia Kanepi in the opening round but she found the way to make the one last push and secure the win that keeps her in the contention for the title she is yet to win.
The Romanian did more damage with her first serve and she tamed her shots more effectively, staying on 35 unforced errors while Kenin counted to almost 50. Winning 40% of the points on the return, Halep broke her young opponent five times and she suffered two breaks, doing enough to emerge as the winner and setting the thrilling third-round clash against Venus Williams.
It was a solid start of the match for the world no. 1, losing just six points on serve in four games and controlling the pace with nine winners and seven unforced errors. She secured a break in the opening game of the match when Kenin sprayed a forehand error and the opening set was in her hands with another break in game nine after 33 minutes.
The Romanian marched towards the finish line after taking 12 of the initial 14 points in set number two that pushed her 3-0 up, looking good to seal the deal in no time at all. Out of sudden, the American found her range and she broke back at love in game five to gain an enormous boost and stay on the level terms with the Romanian in the rest of the set and reach the tie break.
Hitting more depth and aggression, Sofia was able to control her service games and move the rival around the court with a great mixture of powerful crosscourt groundstrokes that were opening the court for smooth execution.
Trailing 5-4 in the breaker, Kenin won the last three points to steal the set after almost an hour of a grueling fight and set up the decider where she had the momentum. Fending off four break points in the first part of the third set, Kenin moved 4-2 up when Simona sent a backhand long in the sixth game, making another big step towards a huge win.
With her back pushed against the wall, Simona pulled the break back in the very next game to stay in contention and she never looked back, earning another break in game nine and crossing the finish line after a service winner a few minutes later that propelled her into the third round.
Second round result:
Simona Halep (ROU) vs Sofia Kenin 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4