CINCINNATI, OH, USA - No. 2 seed Simona Halep eased into the third round of the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday, overcoming an early deficit to defeat American qualifier Taylor Townsend, 6-4, 6-1.
After a tightly contested start which saw four breaks of serve in the first six games, Halep cruised to victory in the latter stages of the match, winning 11 of the final 12 games en route to her first win in Cincinnati this year.
The 21-year-old Townsend started the match well, twice going up an early break in the first set, often due to her willingness to come to the net and finish off points with strong volleys.
From 2-4 down, the Romanian World No.2 reeled off four consecutive games, including two love service holds, and clinched the opening set on a backhand error into the net by the 21-year-old American.
In the second set, Townsend could not find the virtuosity she demonstrated in her first-round win over 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig, and quickly found herself down 0-3.
The uptick in Townsend's unforced errors down the stretch contributed to the second set sprint for Halep, with the American finishing the match with 32 unforced errors to the Romanian's 22 - despite the pair having an equal number of winners (16 apiece).
Townsend's last stand came with Halep serving at 3-1, where the second seed had to survive five break points in an 11-minute game. Halep then was able to break Townsend's serve in another tight game before calmly serving out the match after one hour and six minutes.
Townsend can use the confidence from three wins in Cincinnati, two in qualifying as well as her first round victory over Puig, and her solid performance against Halep to attempt a good run at the US Open, as she received a main draw wildcard for the year's final Grand Slam event earlier on Tuesday.
Halep, the 2015 runner-up in Cincinnati, now finds herself in the third round, where she will take on the winner of tomorrow's match between Latvian No.15 seed Anastasija Sevastova and Roberta Vinci of Italy, the 2015 US Open finalist.