Si­mona siz­zles un­der the at­ten­tions of on-song Barty

Sport360 - - Australian Open - By Staff Re­porter @Sport360 ✉ ed­i­to­[email protected]

18 WTA ti­tles in Halep’s ca­reer so far

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 fourth­seed 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 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.”

Aus­tralia’s Barty, who ended a break­through 2018 with a WTA ti­tle in Zhuhai and is now ranked 15, is now in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

She had al­ready ac­counted for an­other French Open win­ner, Je­lena Ostapenko, in the first round.

Halep, with­out a coach af­ter split­ting with Dar­ren Cahill, 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.

Stephens was an­other ca­su­alty. The Amer­i­can nar­rowly es­caped de­feat in the first round, and slumped out to Kazakh qual­i­fier Yu­lia Putint­seva 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, sur­ren­der­ing in the fi­nal set.

Rocky re­turn: Si­mona Halep.

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