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2-min read

Harried Simona Halep Staggers into Australian Open Clash with Venus Williams

The Romanian downed the 37th ranked American 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 over two-and-a-half hours in another unconvincing display after also struggling in her opening match.

AFP

Updated:January 17, 2019, 6:33 PM IST
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Harried Simona Halep Staggers into Australian Open Clash with Venus Williams
The Romanian downed the 37th ranked American 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 over two-and-a-half hours in another unconvincing display after also struggling in her opening match.
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World number one Simona Halep limped into an Australian Open third round clash with Venus Williams Thursday after being pushed to the limit by unseeded Sofia Kenin over three sets.

The Romanian downed the 37th ranked American 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 over two-and-a-half hours in another unconvincing display after also struggling in her opening match.

The pressure on the reigning French Open champion will only intensify in her next round, when she faces seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams.

"I have no idea how I won this tonight, it's so tough to explain what happened on court," a drained-looking Halep said after overcoming the dogged Kenin, who is fresh from winning the warm-up Hobart International.

Halep won the first set comfortably and appeared to be cruising at 3-0 up in the third when her momentum faltered and she found herself in a battle for survival.

"It was difficult to stay in there for every ball and run so much," said the 27-year-old, who arrived in Melbourne on a five-match losing streak, equalling the worst run of her career.

"I got a little bit injured in the second set but I just fought because I wanted to win."

Halep, whose 2018 season was cut short by a herniated disc, said the injury was a muscle strain in her leg and "not dangerous".

She did not expect it to affect her match against Williams, predicting the 38-year-old will try to hit winners rather than engage in long rallies.

'I'm Getting Better'

"For sure I'm not going to run that much because it's going to finish fast, the points," said Halep, who won her most recent match against the American last year but has a 6-4 losing record overall.

Halep lost an epic final to Caroline Wozniacki in Melbourne last year but has admitted she is currently "not at my highest level".

But she said her maiden Grand Slam win at Roland Garros last year had given her a positive outlook and her tough opening matches would help her play into form.

"I feel ready to play three hours every day, even if I'm not 100 percent prepared for this tournament," she said.

"Day-by-day I'm getting better."

The Romanian paid tribute to Kenin, a Russian-born American aged just 20, whose lost in the first round on her only previous campaign at Melbourne Park last year.

"It was a very tough one, she's an amazing player," she said.

Halep made a promising start with a break in the first game and kept the rallies short on her own serve to hold easily.

Kenin's error rate mounted as the first set wore on and Halep broke again to claim it after 33 minutes.

Halep looked to be cruising early in the second set, with Kenin scoring only two points as the Romanian raced to a 3-0 lead.

But the American fought back with a break in the fifth and took the set to a tie-break, forcing a decider when a scrambling Halep hit her return long after a 12-shot rally.

The third set's opening game turned into an epic arm-wrestle that went to deuce seven times as Halep failed to convert four break points against the dogged Kenin.

Disaster loomed when the Romanian went down a break in the sixth game but she rallied to get back on level terms in the next, then made a decisive second break.

| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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