One of the favourites heading into the season-opening Grand Slam event will begin her tournament on the heels of a withdrawal from the Apia Sydney International last week. While it was a startling exit from the event, it has seemingly not impacted the Simona Halep’s preparation. She will begin her campaign in Melbourne against Karin Knapp, whom she has never encountered previously on the professional tour.
World No. 3 Simona Halep began her 2015 season with a straightforward title win in Shenzhen, where she only dropped one set en route to the title. In the final, she defeated Petra Kvitova vanquisher Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets to kick start a hopeful run to Australia, but it was short lived, as she was forced to withdraw from Sydney shortly after arriving with a gastrointestinal illness.
“During the tournament in China I got this problem in my stomach,” said Halep, who, after winning the title in Shenzhen three days ago, mentioned she was feeling a little bit sick before the final. “I didn’t play for three days. I was waiting until today to see if I was ready to play again, but I feel like I cannot play. It’s tough to play a tournament like this so unfortunately I decided to withdraw.”
However, the Romanian does not expect this to impact her performances in Australia, nor her preparation for the event.
“You never know with the stomach, but hopefully in two or three days I’ll be ready to play again,” she said. “Right now I just need to think about recovering, then I will worry about matches later.”
“I’m confident now,” Halep said. “Last year I did some good results but now it’s another year and another start, and I’ve had a good start, winning in Shenzhen and playing better match by match.”
World No. 51 Karin Knapp was also present in Shenzhen but lost in the second round to the eventual runner-up Bacsinszky. She has been dealt a tough hand against one of the toughest players on the tour but could be primed for an upset if the Romanian is not at full strength. While this is their first meeting on the tour, Halep will stand as a heavy favourite and should cruise to the second round without much difficulty.
Prediction: Simona Halep in Straight Sets