Simona Halep looks to move one step closer to a second Australian Open final on Thursday, facing Harriet Dart in the second round of the tournament. The Romanian is a heavy favourite to win this one and will want to consume energy ahead of a likely outing against an in-form Danielle Collins.
Having qualified for the tournament, Dart kept her momentum going with an impressive three set win over Misaki Doi in round one, taking the match in a final set tiebreak. She will be hoping to take the next step in 2020, having slogged on the ITF Tour for a number of years before her slam breakthroughs.
Halep didn’t have it all her own way in beating Jennifer Brady, needing to save set points in the opener before eventually coming through in straight sets. “I had just to push her back as much as possible, to make her run, playing a little bit both sides. I served pretty okay. And after that very tough set, in the second set I’ve been more relaxed. I’ve been a little bit more aggressive. I tried to finish some points, which I did.” she said afterwards. Perhaps more concerning was the fall on her wrist that resulted in a medical timeout and a loss of serve on resumption of play.
This is going to be an almighty test for Dart, who has found it tough under pressure in her two big stadium matches to date. She lost 6-0 6-0 to Maria Sharapova on Rod Laver last year and won only two games against Ashleigh Barty on Centre Court later in the season. If she begins poorly, this one could be over in a similarly quick amount of time. “I think I have kept learning from all the experiences I’ve had over the past year and hopefully I can draw on them and bring that to the match against Halep.” Dart said. “She’s one of the players I particularly look up to. Her athletic ability is pretty incredible and she’s a Grand Slam champion for a reason.”
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets