Tennis: Struggling Halep sets up Venus clash

Simona Halep stretching to hit a forehand against Sofia Kenin of the USA during their second-round match. The Romanian came through three sets and pain in her thigh to progress.
Simona Halep stretching to hit a forehand against Sofia Kenin of the USA during their second-round match. The Romanian came through three sets and pain in her thigh to progress.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE • Top seed Simona Halep has played down fitness concerns after she limped into the third round of the Australian Open yesterday following a slight injury during the 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 win over Sofia Kenin.

The Romanian has struggled for form and fitness since her first-round defeat at the US Open last August and came into the year's first Grand Slam short of preparation after a back injury ended her 2018 season prematurely.

She was on a five-match losing streak and needed all her determination to snap that run in her opening clash against Kaia Kanepi when she came back from a set and a break down to clinch the win.

She again had to dig deep against 20-year-old American Kenin, and in the midst of it all clutched the back of her right thigh a few times.

"I feel it in my leg a little bit, it's the muscle," she explained. "I felt it in the second set, but it's because I'm tired. I don't think it's anything dangerous, but we'll see tomorrow morning.

"I couldn't sleep at all that night (after beating Kanepi). I had pain in my legs and it was tough. But I had one day between matches and it was great.

"Every tough match is a positive. But I feel ready to play three hours every day, even if I'm not 100 per cent prepared for this tournament. Day by day I'm getting better."

The next round might not be any easier for Halep. She meets seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, who beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

Halep said: "Tough one. But for sure I'm not going to run that much. Because it's going to finish fast, the points.

  • SELECTED DAY 4 RESULTS

  • MEN, 2ND RD

    Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 6-3 7-5 6-4, Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Ivo Karlovic (Cro) 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 5-7 7-6 (9-7), Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt Jeremy Chardy (Fra) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 5-7 6-7 (608) 6-1, Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) bt Chung Hyeon (Kor) 6-2 1-6 6-2 6-4.

  • WOMEN, 2ND RD

    Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Viktoria Kuzmova (Svk) 6-4 6-1, Naomi Osaka (Jpn) bt Tamara Zidansek (Slo) 6-2 6-4.

"She's a great player, champion. It's always a big challenge for me to face the (Williams) sisters.

"But I will be confident because I played against her, I know how she plays. I have to be strong."

Venus' sister, Serena, defeated Canadian Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2 to set up a meeting with unseeded Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska.

"It wasn't an easy match tonight," said the 37-year-old.

"Eugenie's been to the final of Wimbledon (in 2014) and the semi-finals of other Grand Slams.

"So I knew 'Serena, you've got to come out hot, you've got to come out firing'."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2019, with the headline 'Struggling Halep sets up Venus clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe