Melbourne - World No 1 Simona Halep limped into an Australian Open third round
clash with Venus Williams on Thursday after being pushed to the limit by
unseeded Sofia Kenin over three sets.
The Romanian downed the 37th ranked American 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 over
two-and-a-half hours in another unconvincing display after also
struggling in her opening match.
The pressure on the reigning French Open champion will only intensify
in her next round, when she faces seven-time Grand Slam champion
"I have no idea how I won this tonight, it's so tough to explain what
happened on court," a drained-looking Halep said after overcoming the
dogged Kenin, who is fresh from winning the warm-up Hobart
Halep won the first set comfortably and appeared to be cruising at
3-0 up in the third when her momentum faltered and she found herself in a
battle for survival.
"It was difficult to stay in there for every ball and run so much,"
said the 27-year-old, who arrived in Melbourne on a five-match losing
streak, equalling the worst run of her career.
"I got a little bit injured in the second set but I just fought because I wanted to win."
Halep, whose 2018 season was cut short by a herniated disc, said the injury was a muscle strain in her leg and "not dangerous".
She did not expect it to affect her match against Williams,
predicting the 38-year-old will try to hit winners rather than engage in
"For sure I'm not
going to run that much because it's going to finish fast, the points,"
said Halep, who won her most recent match against the American last year
but has a 6-4 losing record overall.
Halep lost an epic final to Caroline Wozniacki in Melbourne last year
but has admitted she is currently "not at my highest level".
But she said her maiden Grand Slam win at Roland Garros last year had
given her a positive outlook and her tough opening matches would help
her play into form.
"I feel ready to play three hours every day, even if I'm not 100 percent prepared for this tournament," she said.
"Day-by-day I'm getting better."
The Romanian paid tribute to Kenin, a Russian-born American aged just
20, whose lost in the first round on her only previous campaign at
Melbourne Park last year.
"It was a very tough one, she's an amazing player," she said.
Halep made a promising start with a break in the first game and kept the rallies short on her own serve to hold easily.
Kenin's error rate mounted as the first set wore on and Halep broke again to claim it after 33 minutes.
Halep looked to be cruising early in the second set, with Kenin scoring only two points as the Romanian raced to a 3-0 lead.
But the American fought back with a break in the fifth and took the
set to a tie-break, forcing a decider when a scrambling Halep hit her
return long after a 12-shot rally.
The third set's opening game turned into an epic arm-wrestle that
went to deuce seven times as Halep failed to convert four break points
against the dogged Kenin.
Disaster loomed when the Romanian went down a break in the sixth game
but she rallied to get back on level terms in the next, then made a
decisive second break.
Results from Day 4 of the Australian Open on Thursday:
Kei Nishikori (JPN x8) bt Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (10/7)
Borna Coric (CRO x11) bt Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x23) bt Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7)
Fabio Fognini (ITA x12) bt Leonardo Mayer (ARG) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)
Joao Sousa (POR) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER x32) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) bt Chung Hyeon (KOR x24) 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4
Milos Raonic (CAN x16) bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (13/11), 7-6 (7/5)
Denis Shapovalov (CAN x25) bt Taro Daniel (JPN) 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3
David Goffin (BEL x21) bt Marius Copil (ROU) 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x15) bt Ryan Harrison (USA) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) bt Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 6-4, 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/2)
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) bt Dominic Thiem (AUT x7) 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 retired
Camila Giorgi (ITA x27) bt Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-2, 6-0
Wang Qiang (CHN x21) bt Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 6-2, 6-3
Elina Svitolina (UKR x6) bt Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-4, 6-1
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x7) bt Madison Brengle (USA) 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x13) bt Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
Elise Mertens (BEL x12) bt Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-1, 7-5
Hsieh Su-wei (TPE x28) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3, 6-4
Madison Keys (USA x17) bt Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) bt Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) 6-2, 7-5
Naomi Osaka (JPN x4) bt Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-2, 6-4
Zhang Shuai (CHN) bt Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 6-3, 7-5
Simona Halep (ROU x1) bt Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4
Venus Williams (USA) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-0