Reigning Rogers Cup champion Simona Halep kicked off her title defence with a hard-fought win over Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova on Wednesday night in Toronto. The two consistent baseliners traded blows for nearly an hour and 40 minutes, but in the end, the world number two was slightly more consistent, hanging on for a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Halep hangs tough
The defending champion was under pressure right from the start of the match, struggling to put Rybarikova away in a long rally at deuce and needing to save a break point just to get out of the opening game after four deuces. She bounced back well in the following game, holding a break point of her own after a Rybarikova double fault, but she sent her return long.
The match would remain on serve through seven games before either woman blinked. At 4-3, Rybarikova double faulted twice to give her opponent a double break point opening. She saved the first with a volley winner, but netted a backhand on the second to surrender the break. Looking to serve out the set, Halep nearly choked, missing back-to-back backhands on double set point, but quickly brought up a third at AD-40 and ripped a forehand winner down the line to wrap up the opening set.
Reigning champion grinds through
Halep started applying pressure immediately in the second, holding four break points in the opening game of the set. However, Rybarikova was up to the test, saving all four before holding. The Romanian was not discouraged and kept attacking in her next return game. She failed to take advantage of a Rybarikova double fault at 30-30, but brought up a second and this time ripped a forehand into her opponent’s feet to claim the break.
In the very next game, Halep would dig herself out of a 0-30 hole, only to send a forehand long to fall behind break point and then sent a backhand long to put the set back on serve. The world number two quickly rallied, taking a 0-40 lead in the next game and ripping a forehand winner crosscourt to reclaim the break lead. Rybarikova nearly levelled the score again in the following game on the feels of some big hitting, but Halep came up with some big shots of her own, including a swinging volley winner to save break point before grinding out a titanic rally to hold.
After some extremely consistent play up until the eighth game of the second set, errors became the world number two’s undoing, as she fell behind 15-40 on her own serve. She would save both break points, but continued to commit errors at deuce. Despite saving two more break points, she would send back to back shots long from deuce to drop serve on the fifth break point of the game, levelling the set at 4-4.
Earning the break back seemed to take a toll on Rybarikova, as she began committing more errors of her own in the following game. A series of errors set up a double break point opportunity for Halep and the world number two made no mistake, painting the line with an inside out forehand to move ahead 5-4. Serving for the match was not easy, as a massive forehand combination from the Slovakian earned one final break point, but Halep would reel off three straight points to seal the victory in an hour and 38 minutes.
By the numbers
Halep was solid on serve, winning 62 and 52 percent of her first and second serves respectively. She also saved seven of the nine break points she faced. While Rybarikova did well on her first serve, winning 69 percent of those points, she only put 47 percent of them in play and won a mere 36 percent of her second serve points. She also was broken four times on twelve break points.
Halep will play Barbora Strycova in the third round.