Simona Halep survived a one-sided three-set match against home favorite Duan Yingying at the 2018 Shenzhen Open, triumphing with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 scoreline. After a slow start which saw her struggle on the return, the world number one lived up to her tag as she played a flawless second half of the encounter.
With the win, Halep confirmed that she would be the world number one at the end of the week, and thus securing the top seed at the 2018 Australian Open. Though, she now faces a tougher task in the quarterfinals, taking on the unseeded Aryna Sabalenka.
Duan jumps out to great start, halfway from upset
Both players entered the second-round match with straightforward victories in their opening match and looked in top form as they were both coming up with their strong serves and was solid at the baseline to give the match a high-quality start. Halep’s inability to consistently find her first serves in the fourth game saw Duan exploit her vulnerable second serves, using her world-class forehand to grab the first break.
Having the lead against the world number one, Duan ignored the pressure weighing on her shoulders, and instead peaked on her serve to consolidate the break. Surprisingly, it was a serve-dominated process as neither was able to gain the rhythm on the return, with Halep’s placement and angles matching up with Duan’s power. Ultimately, the home favorite comfortably served out the first set 6-3 after just 32 minutes, looking poised for the biggest victory of her career.
Halep storms back to level the match
After an exchange of service holds to start the second set with, the level of intensity by Duan visibly dropped as Halep started to gain control of proceedings. Not letting loose on her serve, the world number one could be considered invincible as the angles on her groundstrokes, coupled alongside her glorious backhand down-the-line shots, were overwhelming the home favorite as she soon converted on her first break points of the match.
Trailing by a break, Duan committed endless unforced errors on her backhand wing and failed to convert a 0-30 lead on the return before blowing two game point opportunities. Gifting a much-improved Halep a commanding 5-1 lead, her confidence level took a dip and the Romanian took advantage to seal the second set 6-1.
Halep continues merciless run, enters quarterfinals
Continuing to ride on her momentum, Halep had the perfect start to the deciding set while Duan faced troubles with a thigh injury, hindering her movement. Prevailing in an incredible rally, the Chinese earned her chances to break straight back before she put too much pressure on herself, sending returns into the net which allowed Halep to enforce a 2-0 lead.
Within a blink of an eye, Halep was just steamrolling through the match as she ignored her loss of the first set, firing on all cylinders which saw Duan having no answers to the Romanian’s flawless aggressive play. Though the Chinese put up a spirited performance by grabbing two consolation games, Halep finally closed out the win after just 97 minutes of play.