DOHA, Qatar - In her first match since losing in the Australian Open final, No.2 seed Simona Halep needed just over an hour to take down Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-0 and make a winning start to her Qatar Total Open campaign.
In her pre-tournament press conference, Halep discussed bouncing back mentally after the Australian Open, saying, “Everything was beautiful at that tournament, even if I lost the final, I took only the positives and I'm really motivated to go ahead.”
Halep showed this clearly against her opponent Makarova, who’s built up a reputation of being a dangerous floater and a stumbling block for top players; Makarova knocked out her No.6-seeded countrywoman Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in St. Petersburg just two weeks ago. But despite her reputation, the Russian came into Doha looking to win her first back-to-back matches in 2018.
Halep got off to a fast start against Makarova, breaking early and building up a 3-0 lead right away, backing it up after a second break of the Russian’s serve put her ahead 5-2. Makarova mixed up her strategy just as Halep served for the set, going back to her doubles roots and closing off points at the net.
Makarova was rewarded with one of the breaks back, and even held a point that would get them back on serve at 5-3. But Halep stayed calm, moving well and finding the corners to stop the Russian’s comeback in its tracks.
It was one-way traffic for Halep in the second set, even though the Romanian faced four break points in her opening service game. Makarova wasn’t able to convert as Halep ran away with the set - and the match - reeling off six games in a row to close out her first match in Doha in commanding fashion.
“[I’m pleased] that I could play what I had in my mind,” Halep said in her post-match press conference. “To be aggressive, to try to finish the points, to make some winners, which I did, and in the end the serve helped me a lot. At one point I just started to roll it, and then I just shaked my head and I said that I have to hit it, so I hit it and it helped me a lot.”
Up next, Halep will take on No.13 seed Anastasija Sevastova in the third round. The Latvian scored a 6-4, 6-1 win against Naomi Osaka to advance into round three.