French Open 2018

Halep finds extra grunt

Romania's Simona Halep at full stretch for a backhand during her 6-3, 6-1 win against a determined Taylor Townsend of the United States in Paris yesterday.
Romania's Simona Halep at full stretch for a backhand during her 6-3, 6-1 win against a determined Taylor Townsend of the United States in Paris yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Vocal tactic helps world No. 1 find her focus to beat American and advance to 3rd round

PARIS • Simona Halep's focus was still not as sharp as she would have liked, but that did not prevent the world No. 1 from blazing past American Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-1 in the French Open second round yesterday.

A day after losing the first five games of her first-round match, Halep squandered a 5-1 lead as Townsend came from 0-40 down to save three set points with two unreturnable serves and a bludgeoning backhand volley winner.

After bagging that game with an ace, the 72nd-ranked American saved another set point in the next game before breaking the Romanian, who slapped a backhand into the net.

No doubt frustrated at her inability to close out the set, Halep started grunting every time she struck the ball and that change of tack appeared to produce the desired result as she broke to win the first set on her fifth set point when she ended a 16-stroke rally with a sizzling forehand winner.

Townsend had lost all five previous matches against top-10 opponents and once Halep broke to take a 3-1 lead in the second set, that losing streak was doomed to continue.

The American, who has never won a Grand Slam match outside Roland Garros, dropped her serve again to trail 5-1.

And Halep swiftly put her out of her misery by needing only one match point to book a third-round meeting with Andrea Petkovic.

"It's always a pleasure to come back here to Roland Garros and play matches - it's my favourite Grand Slam," the two-time French Open finalist said after notching her 30th match win of the year.

"I love to play on this court for this atmosphere."

Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, is also enjoying her time in Paris, not least because of the French pastries.

The Spaniard beat French wild card Fiona Ferro 6-4, 6-3 and revealed what fuels her at Roland Garros. "I have one croissant per day, and if I've been running a lot, two," she said. "I just smell butter, and I feel like having one."

One player who has covered a lot of ground so far this week is Jurgen Zopp. Of the record eight lucky losers in the men's singles draw, he is the only one through to the third round. But the Estonian, in his first Grand Slam appearance since 2014, had to do it the hard way.

The world No. 136 beat American 14th seed Jack Sock in five sets before coming back from two sets down to beat fellow lucky loser Ruben Bemelmans 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 yesterday.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2018, with the headline 'Halep finds extra grunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe