French Open: Simona Halep starts title defence with tough three-set victory
Halep was pushed to three sets as she started her title defence with victory (Getty Images/Clive Mason)

World number three and defending champion Simona Halep came through a tough first round encounter to begin her quest for a second French Open title, with the third seed beating Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in three sets to progress.

Halep was many people’s favorite to win the title at the beginning of the tournament, having reached the final the past two years, as well as in 2014, and the opening stages made it seem that she would cruise through this encounter as she dominated the opening set.

Halep in action on Court Philippe Chatrier (Getty Images/Clive Mason)
Halep in action on Court Philippe Chatrier (Getty Images/Clive Mason)

However, Tomljanovic proved to be no pushover and the for second time in as many meetings pushed Halep to a third set, though did little in the decider as the third seed eased to victory, prevailing 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in an hour and 35 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Halep looks solid as she overcomes tough first round encounter

No woman has won back-to-back titles at the French Open since Justine Henin won the third of three straight titles in 2007, and though Halep’s opening round match was tough, she proved she was more than capable of defending her title in an entertaining encounter.

The Romanian started quickly in cold and damp conditions, breaking Tomjanovic for a 2-0 lead, and saving two break points to consolidate for 3-0. Tomjanovic was able to get on the board in her next service game, and apply some more pressure on her opponent’s serve, though Halep was not too troubled, and held twice to take a 5-2 lead. The Romanian forced two set points as the Australian served to stay in the set, and an error from Tomljanovic on the second handed the third seed the opening set.

Tomljanovic fought hard but was ultimately outclassed (Getty Images/Clive Mason)
Tomljanovic fought hard but was ultimately outclassed (Getty Images/Clive Mason)

Tomljanovic had made too many errors in the opening set to really test Halep, though started the second set incredibly brightly, breaking early on and consolidating for a 3-1 lead. The Romanian held on to her next service game, though the Australian looked solid on serve, and her power started to become too much for the Romanian, as she broke for a second time to lead 5-2. She failed to serve out the set, but converted a second set point on Halep’s serve to take the match to a decider

Despite a tricky second set, Halep was able to turn things around. The Romanian broke in the opening game, and then saved a break point to hold a 2-0 lead. Tomljanovic had been so impressive in the previous set, though began to wilt away, and the defending champion had little trouble in breaking twice more to lead 5-0. She did suffer a little hiccup serving for the match, with the Australian breaking to avoid the bagel, though she then proceeded to break for the fourth time in the set to seal victory.

Though it was not always an easy match, Halep will surely be satisfied with her performance in what was a high-quality encounter, with the defending champion striking a fairly even 19 winners and 22 unforced errors. She will face Poland’s Magda Linette in round two.