LONDON, Great Britain - Former World No.1 Simona Halep navigated a tricky first round clash with the always dangerous Aliaksandra Sasnovich, battling past the Belarusian, 6-4, 7-5 to reach the second round at Wimbledon.
"I'm really happy that I could win this match; it was really tough," she explained off court after the match. "The first match of a tournament is always difficult, and I knew she has been playing great. I just had to stay focused, positive, so I could fight to the end."
Halep was a game from losing the second set to Sasnovich, who scored the upset of last year's Championships when she ousted two-time winner Petra Kvitova in the first round, but the Romanian lost just five points from there, saving a set point to advance after one hour and 41 minutes on the newly renovated No.1 Court.
"I was nervous because also in US Open I opened the court, Louis Armstrong," she later explained in her post-match press conference. "Here when I saw, I was a little bit worried. But I stopped thinking about that and I just enjoyed the court. It's beautiful."
The 2018 Roland Garros champion was playing the first official match since the stadium added a roof, though the good weather on the first day of the Championships meant she would take on Sasnovich in open air conditions.
Halep broke serve in the first game of the match and held on for the rest of the set, saving two break points in the sixth game and one more and she served for the set.
As she headed to a one set lead, she appeared to injure her left leg, calling a medical timeout between sets and felt the effects of the discomfort as Sasnovich raced ahead 5-2.
"I feel a little bit. I think it's a little bit stretched, the muscle behind the knee, and also the Achilles. Hopefully is nothing dangerous and I can recover until the next match."
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Halep, a semifinalist at Wimbledon back in 2014, once more caught fire from there, winning eight of nine points to hold and break Sasnovich, and saved a set point on her own serve as she won the final 10 points of the match, securing victory on her first match point.
"I didn't miss that much and I tried to be more aggressive to hit the ball. At one point I started to push the ball, and she could play her game. She plays well when she goes for it.
"Then I was concentrating on the serve, as well. I played more with the first one. I felt confident, even if I was 2-5."
In all, she hit 18 winners to 16 unforced errors, converting four of 11 break point chances throughout. While Sasnovich enjoyed solid success at the net, approaching 12 times and winning 10 of those points, she'll be left to rue her missed opportunities at the end of the second set, along with 34 unforced errors to 11 winners.
"My main goal this tournament is to be positive; it's all about the attitude. Today, I showed myself that I could fight until the end and never give up. If I do that in every match I play, I'm really happy."
Up next for the No.7 seed is countrywoman Mihaela Buzarnescu, who defeated American Jessica Pegula in straight sets shortly after Halep's win.
"I'm not putting pressure on myself. I'm motivated every tournament I play. So I'm not analyzing that much. I just want to go on court and to see how good I can be this year. Next year maybe I will push a little bit more.
"Now I feel happy on court, I feel good. I just try to win every match I play. Nothing else in my mind."