Wimbledon 2018: Simona Halep eventually finds her stride to push past Saisai Zheng

Halep was made to sweat in the opening set of her second-round showdown with the Chinese

Samuel Lovett
Thursday 05 July 2018 18:10
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It took a while for her to get going but, once she did, Simona Halep showcased all the hallmarks of a champion-in-waiting to dispatch of China’s Zheng Saisai in a 7-5 6-0 win here on the fourth day of Wimbledon.

Halep, who last month claimed the first grand slam title of her career after emerging victorious at Roland Garros, was made to sweat in the opening set of her second-round showdown with the world No 126.

After comfortably breezing past Kurumi Nara of Japan on Tuesday, Halep headed into this match in high spirits but initially struggled to recreate her first-round form.

Falling 5-3 behind in the first set, the French Open champion looked unsettled as she struggled for consistency, notably falling foul of eight unforced errors on the backhand.

But the newest member of the grand slam winners’ circle clung on and went on win the next 10 games, locking out her opponent from the contest entirely.

It was a mentally mature performance from the 26-year-old, no doubt buoyed by her exploits in Paris.

“It was not easy,” she said after the match. “I had pressure little bit of losing that set. But I didn’t panic. I think this was the best thing that I did. I didn’t panic. I was just calm, just to play every ball.

Halep found her stride in the second set

“I really believe that I have the power to come back if I stay focused. As I said, I just opened the game better, I opened the court, then I went to the net pretty much today. After the first set, was much better.”

Halep will now face Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei in the third round.

Angelique Kerber similarly survived her own scare after being taken to a third set in her 3-6 6-2 6-4 win over Claire Liu.

The former world No 1 admitted to being caught cold, having failed to properly research her 18-year-old opponent, the 2017 junior champion here at SW19.

“I didn’t know a lot about her,” she said after the win. “This is always tough to play against someone you actually don’t know, and also don’t really know how she is playing.

The former world No 1 survived her own scare

“It was a quite tricky match. I was not playing my best today. I was not feeling my rhythm from the beginning. She played well. She had nothing to lose.

“For me it was just a match where I won. I’m just happy about that I won it at the end.”

Kerber will next meet Naomi Osaka in the third round after the Japanese beat British favourite Katie Boulter 6-3 6-4.

Elsewhere, Ashleigh Barty came out on top in a clash of former Wimbledon junior champions with Eugenie Bouchard.

The Australian, who won the girls’ title in 2011, beat the 2012 champion 6-4 7-5 on Court Three to move into the third round.

Barty’s compatriot Daria Gavrilova won the all-Australian contest with Sam Stosur 6-4 6-1 while Barbora Strycova beat Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-4 in matches that were held over from Wednesday night.

There were also wins for 14th seed Daria Kasatkina, Carla Suarez Navarro and Katerina Siniakova.

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