Simona Halep looks to keep her slam winning streak going on Thursday when she faces the American Taylor Townsend for a spot in the last 32. The potential thriller in round four with Bianca Andreescu is still on but the Romanian will have to see off Townsend and either Sorana Cirstea or Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov for that matchup to materialise.
A once very highly rated youngster, Townsend is now 23 and hasn’t really managed to kick on to the next level despite nearing the top 60 last year. She had to qualify for the tournament this time round, finishing it off with a dramatic comeback against Nina Stojanovic. It was another comeback in her opening round of the main draw, seeing off Kateryna Kozlova to advance. Townsend does play a different style to many younger players nowadays, approaching the net to finish off points on a regular basis.
Having lost in the opening round of the US Open last year, Halep will have been having doubts as she entered a third set with Nicole Gibbs. As it was, there was little to be concerned as she broke early and ran away with the third set to complete a 6-3 3-6 6-2 victory. The Romanian will be glad to have got a tough win under her belt early, when she could have wilted under the pressure of the home crowd. “I was stressed before the match, also on this court that I lost last year. Was not easy. But I’m really happy that I could manage in the end to play better than before.” she said. “I’m not feeling great at the beginning of the tournament, but always when I played tough matches at the beginning, then I went through the semi-finals or quarter-finals,” Halep said.
Halep is likely to expose Townsend’s movement on a regular basis and has dominated her opponent in each of their three meetings over the past three years. The most recent came at Miami this year where the Romanian broke five times in a 6-1 6-3 victory. The mental toll of competing at the highest level has affected Halep in the past but she looks to be more at peace as more success comes. “You just have to believe and go ahead. You have nothing to lose now in my position,” she said. “I’ve done everything I wanted, extra winning Wimbledon. I’m pretty relaxed. But still, I have expectations for myself. I’m trying to get better day by day.”
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets