WTA Tour

Halep, Stephens fall at first hurdle in Sydney

2019-01-09 15:00
Simona Halep (Getty Images)
Simona Halep (Getty Images)

Sydney - World number one Simona Halep's preparations for next week's Australian Open suffered a huge setback on Wednesday when she was bundled out of the Sydney International, along with fourth seed Sloane Stephens.

The Romanian hadn't played since withdrawing from the WTA Finals in October with a herniated disc, and was no match for fast-rising Australian Ashleigh Barty, who scored the biggest win of her career 6-4, 6-4.

Halep, the reigning French Open champion and 2018 Australian Open runner-up, had a bye through to the second round, meaning she heads to Melbourne Park for the opening Grand Slam of the year with just one game under her belt.

"It was a great match after almost four months (since the last one). I think I played a good level of tennis but I had no inspiration in some important points," she said.

"She played really well and deserved to win. But I was also very close to winning.

"No pain at all, that is a great sign," she added of her back. "The tennis is good, I just have to believe in myself more."

Barty, who ended a breakthrough 2018 with a WTA title in Zhuhai and is now ranked 15, brought the momentum into the new year and is now in the quarter-finals, where she will meet either Belgian 10th seed Elise Mertens or Estonian Anett Kontaveit.

She had already accounted for another French Open winner, Jelena Ostapenko, in the opening round and had an extra gear against Halep, breaking serve twice to win the first set.

Halep, without a coach after splitting with Darren Cahill who wanted to spend more time with his family, was first to break in the second set and had a chance to hold for 5-3.

But Barty was undaunted, using her signature court craft to break straight back and secure victory two games later.

"It was extremely difficult conditions, very swirly down at court level. So I figured if I'm going to play Sim anytime, and it's her first match, it was now. I was very happy to make the most if it," said Barty.

"I had nothing to lose out here so I just came out and played with freedom. I believed I could win."

Earlier in the week, Halep admitted the back injury that ended her 2018 season early was "very scary".

The early finish to 2018 was a disappointing end to a spectacular season, which saw the 27-year-old secure the year-end number one ranking for the second year running.

American world number five Stephens was another casualty.

She narrowly escaped defeat in the first round, and slumped out to Kazak qualifier Yulia Putintseva 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, meekly surrendering in the final set.

In other matches Wednesday, Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky beat Australia's Sam Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 and will meet Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in the last eight.

In the men's draw, third seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman booked his place in the quarters by beating Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in two sets. He will next face Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka.

Veteran Italian Andreas Seppi is also through to meet top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, while fifth seeded Alex De Minaur set up an all-Australian last eight tie with Jordan Thompson. France's Gilles Simon will take on another Australian, John Millman.

Results of matches played at the ATP/WTA Sydney International tennis tournament at Olympic Park on Wednesday (x denotes seed):


Round 2

Diego Schwartzman (ARG x3) bt Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-2, 6-3

Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) bt Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-3, 6-1

Alex De Minaur (AUS x5) bt Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)

Andreas Seppi (ITA x8) bt Martin Klizan (SVK) 7-6 (7/2), 6-2

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x1) bt Guido Andreozzi (ARG) 6-3, 6-4

John Millman (AUS) bt Marton Fucsovics (HUN x7) 6-3, 6-4

Gilles Simon (FRA x4) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (6/8), 6-4


Round 2

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Simona Halep (ROU x1) 6-4, 6-4

Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 5-7, 6-4, 6-3

Elise Mertens (BEL x10) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3, 6-1

Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) bt Priscilla Hon (AUS) 0-6, 6-3, 6-3

Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) bt Sloane Stephens (USA x4) 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0

Round 1

Elise Mertens (BEL x10) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-2

Anett Kontaveit (EST) bt Monica Puig (PUR) 2-6, 7-5, 6-1

Read more on:    wta tour  |  simona halep  |  tennis


Read News24’s Comments Policy


When all is said and done, who of the 'Big 3' in men's tennis ends their career with the most Grand Slams?

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2019/20 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.