MIAMI (AFP) - World number one Simona Halep battled back to eliminate France's Oceane Dodin 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 Thursday (March 22) and reach the third round of the WTA Miami Open.
Qualifying lucky loser Dodin led 4-2 in the third set, powered by punishing groundstrokes that at times baffled the top-seeded Romanian, before Halep roared back for the triumph in her first match after an opening bye.
"It was a crazy match," Halep said. "I didn't know where the ball is coming, and I had to pay attention to every shot she hit. But I won it and I'm happy."
Halep will remain atop the WTA rankings no matter how she fares in the Miami fortnight, but Dodin served notice her path will not be an easy one.
"This year, I've had many tough matches, so I'm used to it," Halep said. "I just wanted to stay focused, not give up, and in the end I won the match. I was fighting to the end and that was the most important thing today."
Halep, a runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in January's Australian Open still chasing her first Grand Slam title, outlasted Dodin after two hours and six minutes despite capturing the final four games.
"It's tough to play against an opponent like this because she hits very strong and you never know where the ball is coming," Halep said.
"I just tried to stay strong in my legs, return the ball and make her move more, because she had trouble hitting the ball as hard as she does when she was on the run."
Halep swatted 20 winners with 26 unforced errors while Dodin made 35 winners but faded to finish with 52 unforced errors and 16 double faults.
Halep next faces Poland's 30th-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, a former world number two who was a 2012 Wimbledon runner-up.
"I'll have to be more aggressive, find some angles to push her back, and open the court," Halep said. "Hopefully I can win it."