Thiem, Halep win in Wash­ing­ton open­ers

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Top seeds Do­minic Thiem and Si­mona Halep cruised into the round of 16 at the ATP and WTA Citi Open with straight-set tri­umphs Tues­day at the US Open tune-up event. Aus­tria’s sev­enth-ranked Thiem, a French Open semi-fi­nal­ist in June, waited out a rain de­lay then needed only 63 min­utes to dis­patch 96th-ranked Swiss Henri Laak­so­nen 6-3, 6-3. “It wasn’t easy but I’m pretty happy with my per­for­mance,” Thiem said. “It was my first match on hard­court since Mi­ami (in March) and that’s al­ways a lit­tle tricky.”

World num­ber two Halep, this year’s French Open run­ner-up, took only 79 min­utes to oust US wild­card Sloane Stephens 7-6 (7/3), 6-0. “It was a tough first set. I was miss­ing a lit­tle bit too much and she made some shots,” Halep said. “Didn’t have the rhythm at the be­gin­ning, but I feel bet­ter now.”

Thiem, who dropped only eight points on his serve and just one on 25 suc­cess­ful first serves, broke in the sec­ond game of the match and again in his ri­val’s last two ser­vice games, tak­ing the match when Laak­so­nen net­ted a back­hand. “I don’t have a lack of con­fi­dence but it’s al­ways nice to get that first win,”Thiem said.

This marks the big­gest event where Thiem has been top seeded, but his four near­est rank­ings ri­vals are also in the field-Ger­many’s Alexan­der Zverev, Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori, Canada’s Mi­los Raonic and Bul­gar­ian Grigor Dim­itrov.

“I think there are five or six play­ers to beat,” Thiem said. “There should be four or five top seeds. I’m one of them.” But Thiem faces a pos­si­ble third-round match Thursday against South Africa’s Kevin An­der­son, who has beaten him in all five of their ca­reer meet­ings, all on hard­court and with Thiem tak­ing only one set. “Of course I will think about it and I have to change some­thing,” Thiem said. “It’s a very tough draw.” Sec­ond-seeded Nishikori turned back the de­ter­mined chal­lenge of Amer­i­can Don­ald Young 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5). Nishikori, seek­ing his first ti­tle of 2017, didn’t face a break point in the third set, but he couldn’t con­vert any of his eight break chances as Young forced the tiebreaker.

Nishikori fi­nally sealed the win on his sixth match point af­ter two hours and 25 min­utes and with the clock tick­ing to­ward 2 am.

HALEP PASSES FIRST TEST

Halep will next face Colom­bia’s 115th-ranked Mar­i­ana Duque-Marino for a quar­ter-fi­nal berth as the 25-year-old Ro­ma­nian keeps her fo­cus on build­ing her game for the US Open that starts on Au­gust 28 in New York.

“For first match on hard­courts, it wasn’t that bad,” Halep said. “My serve wasn’t the best but I was OK. Ev­ery­thing went well. I can’t say I have to ad­just some­thing. “It was im­por­tant I won to­day. It was im­por­tant the sec­ond set was much bet­ter. The next round I have to be a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive. I have to come to the base­line and fin­ish the points sooner.” Stephens has been back for only a month af­ter miss­ing nearly a year with a left foot in­jury, fall­ing to 957th in the rank­ings. She re­mains frus­trated as she tries to re­gain the form that saw her claim her first WTA ti­tle in Wash­ing­ton in 2015.

“It was a good first set,” Stephens said. “I did well to do the best I could. I got a lit­tle frus­trated in the sec­ond set. It’s go­ing to take a while to get that con­sis­tency back and get more matches un­der my belt.”

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