Simona Halep continues her attempt to return to the Australian Open final on Monday morning. The 2018 losing finalist will play Elise Mertens for a spot in the last 8 where either Iga Swiatek or Anett Kontaveit await. Mertens also went deep in 2018, losing a semi final to the eventual winner Caroline Wozniacki.
Halep’s route to the fourth round has not been the most testing with three easy straight sets wins so far. The most recent of them came against Yulia Putintseva, who she broke five times in her 6-1 6-4 win. It will get tougher but the Romanian is pleased with her form so far. “I knew how she’s playing, but she played a little bit stronger with the forehand than I expected. I knew that I had to attack her serve, to serve well, because she’s hitting the return well.” she said. “I think I have improved in my serve. Also the return looks pretty good. I go to the net. I have some dropshots included in my game, so it’s a big step. I’m happy with my game.”
Mertens rise over the past three years has been fairly impressive with the Belgian now a solid top 20 player. There hasn’t been expectations that she can take the next step and go deep in slams on a regular basis but she is dependable against players considered lesser than her. She made it to this stage after a topsy turvy win against CiCi Bellis, seeing off the American 6-1 6-7 6-0. She has lost her last five matches against top 10 players but did win three in a row to win her Doha title last year, including Halep in the final.
“I will be ready for the match. And I have to fight. Even if she’s playing great, I will be there ready to play. She’s fights until the end, she never gives up. She has a good game, like she plays fast, close to the baseline.” Halep said. The draw continues to get more open for her and she will be confident of returning to the final on Saturday after round three exits for Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova opened the draw up even further.
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets