Former Australian Open finalist Simona Halep was on the brink Wednesday night in Melbourne. The 2-time Slam champion was down 5-2 in the third to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic before mounting an incredible comeback winning the last five games to steal the match 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
The nerves nearly cost Halep she admitted afterward.
“I talked to my team after the match, and they told me that I should have played like I did those games, because my arms were more relaxed and the ball was going a little bit deeper,” Halep said. “I didn’t realize that but, you know, it’s good that I ended like that and I got the confidence that I still can win these tough matches.”
It was a tough defeat for Tomljanovic who was looking for the biggest win of her career.
“It’s hard, very hard to talk about it right now and see any sort of positives,” said Tomljanovic. “At the end of the day all I wanted to do was get a win in any way, even if it was the worst tennis ever. I think that’s my emotions speaking now. I know it was a high-level match, but in the end I lost, so that’s the dominant feeling.”
No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka improved her win streak to 16 after breezing past former Top 5 Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-3. Ons Jabuer will be next.
“Ons was the only person that would talk to me,” Osaka said. “She was just super nice and inviting. I remember when I played her there, she was doing these things that I’ve never seen before – hitting dropshots and then hitting flat-out winners right off the bat. So I was studying her and being very impressed at the same time.”
Serena Williams had a tough first set with 99th-ranked Nina Stojanovic before pulling away 6-2, 6-3. She’ll now face youngster Anastasia Potapova who lost to Serena in the first round last year in Melbourne. This time, she hopes to turn things around.
“Last year, I got such an experience from her,” Potapova said. “I felt a bit down in this match, because it’s always tough to play someone for the first time, especially her. But I’m a bit different now, I’ve grown, and I think it’s going to be a very good match, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get a win or show my best.
“Obviously, she’s the greatest player of all time for me. I’m really pumped for it.”
Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Garbine Muguruza also advanced with Petra Kvitova and comeback girl Bianca Andreescu were upset.
40-year-old Venus Williams turned a right ankle at the end of the first in a 6-1, 6-0 loss to qualifier Sara Errani. Williams grimaced in pain and needed 20 minutes of medical treatment, but, having retired just once in her long career, she played on but couldn’t mount a challenge against the Italian.
Today, World No. 1 Ash Barty returns along with defending champion Sofia Kenin and in the evening it’s a not-to-miss showdown between Elina Svitolina and Coco Gauff.
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