August 11, 2020 11:15:50 pm
World number two Simona Halep made a rusty start on her return from the COVID-19 shutdown as she edged a seesaw battle against Slovenian Polona Hercog 6-1 1-6 7-6(3) in the opening round of the Prague Open on Tuesday.
Having secured a crucial break to move 5-3 ahead in the third set, Halep dropped her own serve before squandering three match points.
The tension increased as three more match points went begging for Halep, who eventually converted her seventh chance to close out the match in a tiebreak.
Halep, who skipped the Palermo Ladies Open last week, was making her first appearance on the WTA Tour since her title triumph at the Dubai Tennis Championships in February.
“I’m happy because I could win after a six-month break,” the 28-year-old Romanian told a news conference.
“I felt tension in my back after the first set, even though it was short and I played well.
“After the second set, I felt tired. But I knew she was in the same position so I just had to stick to the plan and fight – the fighting helped me to win the match.
“Sometimes it’s good to call it a good match – but I don’t wish for the next one to play three hours!”
The WTA Tour restarted the season last week in Palermo with strict health protocols, including a limited number of fans and no handshakes between players after the match.
“Emotionally it’s not easy, but we have to adjust – we live in tough times,” Halep said. “I’m all in and respect everything.”
The Romanian has said she will make a decision on her participation in the U.S. Open, which starts on Aug. 31, after playing in this week’s claycourt tournament in Prague.
Second seed Petra Martic, who suffered a semi-final defeat in Palermo last weekend, rebounded with a 7-6(2) 6-3 win over Russian youngster Varvara Gracheva.
Despite needing a medical timeout between sets, Martic went on to break her opponent’s serve twice to seal a convincing victory.
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