WUHAN, China – Daria Kasatkina produced one of the best performances of her career to defeat WTA World No.2 Simona Halep 6-2, 6-1 in the second round of the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.

After twice beating former World No.1 Angelique Kerber earlier this year, the 20-year-old Russian produced her third career victory over a top-five player as she dismantled the tournament’s second seed.

“It's always difficult to play against Simona. The game was much more difficult than the score looks. I played a good game. I prepared for this match well,” the WTA World No.31 explained, although she refused to be carried away with the victory.

“I’ll just try to play my best tennis, to focus on every game and every point because I don't want to say something and then it doesn't happen,” she replied when asked her targets for the final weeks of the year.

Halep was playing in her first match since losing to Maria Sharapova in the opening round of the US Open, and broke her opponent immediately but was thereafter dominated in the first set as she failed to hold serve even once. 

“I didn't play for, like, a month. It's tough to come back and to play matches,” she admitted. “The rhythm of the match, the rhythm of the big points. It's tough to get that rhythm quickly, in a few games. Maybe it was a mistake that I didn't play, but I needed rest after U.S. season.

“I think she played really well today, and everything went in the right way for her. But also it wasn't my best day. It's tough.

“I take it like it is. No drama. But for sure I will talk about this match and I will learn more things about it.”

Kasatkina overwhelmed her more experienced rival, hitting more winners and fewer unforced errors on the way to five successive games and her first set against Halep in the pair's third meeting.

“The last two times we played, I didn't know what I was trying to do. I put too many tactics into my head,” Kasatkina said. “I went on court and told myself just play how you feel, and it worked.

“Sometimes I’ve got so many options I get stuck and don't know what to do with the ball. Then I play it late, and I don't know where it’s going to go. Sometimes it's better to turn off your head and play with your instincts.”

Halep, who reached the semi-final of this event in 2016, came out with more aggression at the beginning of the second and, after pushing Kasatkina to deuce in the opening game, finally managed to hold her own service.

But it was only a brief reprieve from the brilliance of Kasatkina, who broke in the fourth game with a powerful forehand down the line that was typical of what she produced throughout the encounter.

Errors continued to flow from the racquet of Halep, whose 26th birthday celebrations on Wednesday will have been soured by this heavy loss, and she would be broken again in the sixth game.

Kasatkina completed the rout by serving out to 15, finishing the match with another forehand winner to book her place in the quarter-finals against Ekaterina Makarova.