Simona Halep overcame a stubborn Lucie Safarova, 6-4, 7-5, on Thursday to become the first player through to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open.
WTA Staff

CINCINNATI, OH, USA - WTA Rising Star Simona Halep overcame a spirited Lucie Safarova, 6-4, 7-5, on Thursday to become the first player through to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open.

Watch highlights, interviews and more video from Cincinnati right here on!

The Plot
Following her exploits in the first half of the campaign, Halep took a well-earned break in recent weeks, escaping to Turkey while her rivals at the top of the rankings were easing back into action. However, her inactivity has not curtailed her progress. On Monday, she replaced Li Na as World No.2, and a few days later won her first match at this new career-high ranking, dispatching Kirsten Flipkens in straight sets.

The Turning Point
It did not take Halep long to get up and running, playing a sublime return game at 2-2 to capture the early break. Safarova had her chances to get back into the set, but any hint of danger was quickly snuffed out by the No.2 seed.

The second set was just as keenly contested, yet once again it was Halep winning the crucial exchanges. In the end it was her defense that made the difference, frustrating Safarova into mistakes and helping her take the final three games of the match.

"I feel good, because today was much better than my first match here," Halep said. "I'm happy that I could win the second set also, because she was up 5-4. It's always a great feeling when you win a tight match.

"In the important moments I served well. She's playing really well and because she's left-handed she's so amazing at opening up the angles. And on the other side she has good topspin, so it's difficult to return.

"But I think I played aggressive. I used the angles well, too. So I tried to play my game to do the best, and I think I did."

What's Next
In the last eight, Halep will face Maria Sharapova, in a repeat of this year's French Open final. Sharapova booked her place with a hard-fought win over fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.