French Open: Simona Halep battles into round two

Simona Halep got off to a slow start in her second round match at the French Open, but eventually found her range, seeing off a challenge from Zarina Diyas 7-6(5), 6-2 to reach the third round. In the early stages, the 2014 runner-up struggled to keep the ball in play and has some inconsistency in the opening set. But as the match progressed, she settled down and eventually cruised to victory.

Halep wins back-and-forth opener in tiebreak

Halep got off to a terrible start to the match, struggling to find the court with her groundstrokes and drilling unforced error after unforced error. After Diyas held to start the match, the Romanian quickly fell behind 0-40 in her first service game and double-faulted on the first break point to gift her opponent an immediate 2-0 lead. However, Halep raced ahead 0-30 in the next game and held a break point at 40-AD, which Diyas saved with a drop shot. A huge forehand winner down the line on the next point brought up a second, and this time, she drew an error at the end of an epic point to reclaim the break.

Diyas was not deterred having lost her lead and kept the pressure on Halep as the Romanian tried to equalise. The sixth seed still was struggling with her range, and the Kazakh battled back to deuce and eventually forced an error on break point to reclaim the lead. After the pair exchanged holds, Halep’s shots began to find their mark, and she battled to break point at 40-AD, which she converted by drawing an error. She struggled to even the set once again and was forced to save a break point in a titanic rally, but she ended it with a backhand winner and eventually held for 4-4.

Halep reeled off her fourth game in a row by breaking Diyas for her first lead of the match and a chance to serve out the set. But the inconsistency returned and she gave away a break to love to even the set at 5-5. The set required a tiebreak, where Halep grabbed an immediate minibreak lead courtesy of a Diyas error. The Kazakh evened at 2-2, but the sixth seed reclaimed the lead a point later by running Diyas ragged. The pair exchanged minibreaks again to five Halep a chance to serve for it at 5-4. A return error from the Kazakh gave the Halep double set point, and Diyas missed a drop shot on the second to give the sixth seed the opening set.

Sixth seed finishes strong

The 2014 runner-up was not about to have a repeat of the opening set and, after a routine hold to start the second, she immediately poured the pressure on Diyas’ serve. She battled back to deuce and brought up multiple break points at 40-AD, grabbing the break when the Kazaks drove a forehand wide. However, she gave the break right back with a terrible service game where she was broken to love.

Not to be deterred, Halep raced ahead 15-40 in the following game and broke when her opponent dropped a forehand into the net. The next three games went with serve until Diyas served to stay in the match at 2-5. The Romanian came out swinging and raced to triple match point at 0-40. She missed the first with an unforced error but drew an error on the second to seal the win.

By the numbers

Despite her struggles in the early stages, Halep eventually managed to cut down on the errors and hit more winners, finishing with 21 winners to 22 unforced errors. She also benefitted from 35 unforced errors off the racquet of Diyas, who only had 12 winners of her own. The Romanian, despite her struggles in the opening set, ended up dominating her opponent’s service games, winning 63 percent of the Kazakh’s service points.

Halep will take on Naomi Osaka in the third round.