INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - No.5 seed and 2015 BNP Paribas Open champion Simona Halep faced stiff opposition in rival and No.30 seed Ekaterina Makarova, but the Romanian laid down another comprehensive victory on a windy Sunday night to reach the fourth round, 6-2, 6-4.
The two began strongly on serve but Halep earned a crucial break in the sixth game and ultimately ran away with the opening set. Makarova had lost five games in a row when the Russian - a former Top 10 player who pushed Halep to three sets in their last meeting at the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships - broke back and continued to apply pressure throughout the second set before Halep broke for the match with her 16th and final winner.
"It was a tough match," Halep told Andrew Krasny during her on-court interview. the wind was really bothering us, but I'm happy that I could win this match; I played a bit smarter, I think.
"I knew how to adapt for the wind," she said later. "Just in one part of the court I had to hit a bit stronger, and the other with more topspin. I adjusted really well today and I'm really happy that I did it."
Closing out the night session, Halep acknowledged the crowd, many of whom brought Romanian flags in support of the former World No.2.
"I want to thank everyone for staying; I know it's difficult but thank you guys!"
Playing with renewed confidence, Halep has displayed the sort of form that took her to her career-high ranking and into the French Open final back in 2014. Struggling with illness and injury to start this season, Halep has felt fit and healthy since the end of the Middle East Swing and credits coach Darren Cahill with helping her adjust her mindset and firm up her tactics.
"I had tough matches this year where I couldn't finish the match, so now I call Darren and he really helped me to finish the ball and be strong in the end and to believe that I can win and make a break.
"I'm not thinking about defending the title, but I'm really happy to be back here on Center Court. I really have great memories from last year and I believe that here I can come back with my game and with my confidence."
Up next for the No.5 seed is Barbora Strycova; the Czech veteran has been one of the most consistent players this season with a run to the finals in Dubai and a second week showing in Melbourne; the two have split their only two previous encounters, but Halep triumphed in their most recent meeting at the 2014 China Open.