Second seed Simona Halep reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal on Monday, easing past former world number one Victoria Azarenka 7-6(3), 6-2 on Court 2 to secure her place in the last eight.
Halep was twice a break down in the first set, though was mostly cool and composed throughout against the two-time Grand Slam Azarenka, surviving a late wobble to prevail against an opponent who simply made too many unforced errors after a fairly confident start, though the Belarusian may just be pleased to be back on court so soon after giving birth to her son last December.
The Romanian will face sixth seed Johanna Konta in the last eight; she will become the world number one if she wins that match.
Halep proves too consistent for returning Azarenka
Twice a semifinalist at this tournament, Azarenka had previously got off to slow starts in her first and third round encounters, though was quickly off the mark this time, converting a fourth break point on Halep’s opening service game to get a 2-0 lead. However, Halep, who had not dropped a set on her way to the second week, immediately broke back and held to even things back up in the opening stages. The early stages had shown that this match was on Azarenka’s racket, with the former world number one unsurprisingly being the much more aggressive of the two and once again went a break up.
However, Halep, herself a former finalist at SW19, was able to force errors out of the Belorussian and break back once again. With both women seemingly finding a slight rhythm in the match, Azarenka and Halep continued to hold serve, with Azarenka holding from 0-30 and Halep holding from 30-30 to force a first set tiebreak. Halep had found herself down a break twice in the set, though was fairly in charge of the breaker and took it 7-3, with too many errors by Azarenka handing the Romanian the first set in 53 minutes.
What had been perhaps most notable about the first set is that Halep, often so frustrated and angry when behind, had remained calm and at ease on court, and she continued to look completely at ease in the opening stages of the second set. With Azarenka continually making several unforced errors, Halep continued to grind and was moving extremely well, and some very solid tennis saw her quickly take a 3-0 lead as she edged to victory.
The Azarenka who could have easily taken the first set was completely gone in the second, with the two-time Grand Slam champion struggling with Halep’s strong movement and growing confidence in this match. The Romanian was now beginning to attack more as well, and secured a second break which she consolidated to put herself a game away from victory. The Belarusian held to love to avoid the bagel, and saved a match point to break back, though Halep broke for a third time in the set to seal victory in 88 minutes.