World No.1 Simona Halep seeks to move one step closer to bettering his 2018 performance of losing finalist on Thursday, facing Sofia Kenin for a spot in the third round. Halep is still in danger of losing her spot as the top player on tour with seven other stars still in the running for that accolade a week on Saturday.
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Kenin toughed out a three set victory over the qualifier Veronika Kudermertova, winning the final three games of the match to seal a 6-3 3-6 7-5 victory to advance to the next round. That win has formed part of a six match winning streak that dates back to the beginning of the Hobart tournament. The American is more of a grinder rather than attacking player, something that may play into Halep’s hands when they meet on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Halep managed to avoid a repeat of her first round exit at the US Open. It was tough for her against the very same opponent in Kaia Kanepi but she would come from a set down to advance 6-7 6-4 6-2. The Romanian tightened things up on serve in the last two sets, facing (and losing) just one break point. “Losing against her in US Open, so it was a bit of pressure on my shoulders.” Halep said afterwards, delighted to be ending a five match losing streak. “But I said I have nothing to lose. I know that she’s hitting the ball very strong, is going to take time to get the leading in the match. I didn’t give up, which was really important tonight. I think that’s why I could win the match.”
Despite being inside the top 40 and winning her first singles title this year, it feels like Kenin does not get the attention that many of her fellow countrywomen do. The American has the opportunity to showcase her skills on the biggest stage with this match, facing an opponent who is still somewhat vulnerable. The winner could well end up playing the Williams sisters back to back with Venus a potential round three opponent and Serena one in round four.
Prediction – Simona Halep in three sets