Another player undergoing a difficult week at the American desert is Simona Halep, who plays at the tournament this year with a heavy heart following a tragedy that occurred in her family on Monday. After a slow start in her opening match, she is through to the third round of the Premier event and will look to battle onwards when she crosses paths with Varvara Lepchenko. This is just the second time that these two competitors will cross paths on the WTA tour, with the Romanian leading the head-to-head series 1-0.
The third seed had an early hiccup in her opening match against Russia’s Daria Gavrilova but was able to rally back and earn the 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Once she overcame the first set, she settled into the match and regained command, after which she dropped a mere three games.
“It was my first time playing against her, and I didn’t know how she was playing, and I went on court very nervous and my forehand wasn’t working well,” Halep said. “She plays really tough. She runs a lot and she’s a good defender. I just had to relax and do everything I could to win every point.
Halep was also asked bout the tragedy that took place in her family.
“It’s really tough to speak about this situation. It’s a painful situation for everyone, for me and for my family,” she commented. “I just wanted to play this tournament because he loved tennis. He played tennis for many years. So I decided to stay here, because it was a little bit easier to pass this situation. I just want to dedicate this match to him, because he loved tennis and he was very talented.”
In the third round, Halep will encounter Lepchenko, who defeated wildcard Sachia Vickery, 6-4, 6-1.
This marks the second time that Halep and Lepchenko will cross paths on the professional tour, with Halep leading the series 1-0. Their sole meeting took place in the second round of the 2014 edition of the Australian Open, which lasted three sets. While it is very possible that Halep will struggle again this time around, she should still be a significant favourite to advance to the next stage of the tournament.
Prediction: Simona Halep in Three Sets