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Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

Healthy Simona Halep heats up to reach last 16 at Australian Open

After missing Wimbledon and the French Open in an injury-plagued 2021, Halep is now back to peak fitness and has notched eight straight wins, including a warm-up title in Melbourne.

simona halepSimona Halep became her nation's first player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam singles tournament. (Reuters/FILE)

Simona Halep continued her rampaging start to the season with a 6-2 6-1 demolition of Montenegrin trailblazer Danka Kovinic to reach the last 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday. The 14th seeded Romanian fired up on a baking hot day at John Cain Arena to completely overpower Kovinic, who had dumped U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu out in her previous match, becoming her nation’s first player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam singles tournament.

After missing Wimbledon and the French Open in an injury-plagued 2021, Halep is now back to peak fitness and has notched eight straight wins, including a warm-up title in Melbourne.

“Well, I feel great that I can play the fourth round again,” said Halep, who was beaten by Serena Williams in the quarter-finals last year.”In front of this crowd is always a pleasure, so thank you everybody for staying in this heat because it’s super hot today.

“Twice Grand Slam champion Halep, who reached the 2018 final at Melbourne Park, will play France’s Alize Cornet for a place in the quarter-finals.”I feel like I played great, (Kovinic) was a little bit tired, she had a tough match before me,” added Halep.”I feel good, more confident now because last year was a tough year and now I just enjoy playing tennis because I’m healthy.”

Halep’s next opponent will be Alize Cornet, who celebrated her 32nd birthday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 29 Tamara Zidansek, a 2021 French Open semifinalist.

Cornet followed up her upset of No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza by reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009.

In another third-round match ending Saturday afternoon, 27th-seeded Danielle Collins of the U.S. came back from a set and a break down to beat 19-year-old Clara Tauson 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Tauson was the last teenager left in either singles bracket.

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka has moved into the fourth round at the Australian Open with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova.

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The match started ominously for Sabalenka when she had two double-faults and was broken in the first game.

But unlike her second-round match, when she had nine double-faults in her first two service games and 19 in the match, Sabalenka reduced that glaring match statistic to 10.

“I’m really happy right now — mostly I’m happy I made only 10 double-faults,” Sabalenka said, laughing, in her on-court TV interview.

Sabalenka had an important service hold in the fourth game of the third set, a game that lasted about eight minutes, and then stayed in control for the rest of the match.

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A two-time major semifinalist, Sabalenka conceded she’d “had some trouble” recently with her serve, but added: “I’ll just keeping working on the serve and hope it gets better with every match.”

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She’ll next play No. 115-ranked Kaia Kanepi, who beat Australian wild-card entry Maddison Inglis 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. Kanepi has reached the quarterfinals six times at Grand Slam events, but never has reached the last eight at the Australian Open.

First published on: 22-01-2022 at 09:26:16 am
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