DUBAI, UAE -- World No.2 Simona Halep of Romania got through a challenging battle with wild card Eugenie Bouchard of Canada on Tuesday, clinching a close opening set in a tiebreak en route to a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
"[Bouchard] played well," Halep told the media during her post-match press conference. "The level was pretty good. I served very well. At some points I really ran very well. I'm confident. I feel good on court even if I'm tired," said Halep, who is coming off a run to the final in Doha last week.
2015 Dubai champion Halep picked up her fourth win in five meetings against former World No.5 Bouchard after one hour and 42 minutes of play, giving the reigning French Open champion the 200th main-draw match win of her storied career.
No.3-seeded Halep eked out the tight encounter with two more winners and five fewer unforced errors than Bouchard. The Canadian broke Halep's serve once, but that was her only break point of the affair, while Halep broke serve twice in seven chances. Bouchard also had seven double faults, and got only 46 percent of her first serves into play.
"It's always tough one against [Bouchard] because she stays close to the baseline and takes the ball very fast," Halep explained. "I tried just to push her back as much as possible. After, when I had the chance, I was aggressive and I finished the points."
— WTA (@WTA) February 19, 2019
In the round of 16, former World No.1 Halep will face Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, who overcame Chinese qualifier Zhu Lin, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 on Tuesday. Halep is 6-0 against Tsurenko, including a win last week in Doha.
"It's going to be different because I'm a little bit tired," said Halep. "[Tsurenko] is different on court. She plays without pace much, but she directs the balls very well. It's going to be a tough one. I have to move. I have to run. We will see how I will feel tomorrow. Hopefully I can recover as much as possible to be able to win the match."
After a handful of games where neither player was troubled on serve, Halep drew first blood by breaking for a 4-2 lead with deep forehands. But Bouchard refused to go down quietly, breaking straight back with aggressive play of her own, assisted by errors from the Romanian.
Halep had an opportunity to reclaim her break advantage, holding a break point in the next game, but a netted return squandered that chance, and Bouchard held on for 4-4. The Canadian kept the pressure on throughout the rest of the set, hitting with authority to stay with the World No.2 all the way to a first-set tiebreak.
In the breaker, though, Halep edged in front, changing ends at 4-2 following a stirring forehand winner down the line. A sturdy error-forcing backhand by Bouchard pulled her back on serve at 5-4, but long groundstroke errors by the Canadian on her two subsequent service points handed the one-set lead to Halep after 54 closely contested minutes.
— WTA (@WTA) February 19, 2019
Halep rode the momentum of the final-set tiebreak to a quick lead in the second set, taking the Bouchard serve in the first game with a backhand return winner on break point. The Romanian then survived a protracted game to consolidate for 2-0 with a forehand passing winner.
Bouchard withstood two break points in the following game to prevent Halep from going up a double-break, but the Canadian wild card was never able to hold a break point in the second set as Halep started to find her spots on serve without fail.
The Halep backhand clicked for the remainder of the set as she methodically moved to match game at 5-4. There, another solid serve set up a forehand winner to garner double match point, and though Halep tossed away the first one with a double fault, the second chance was taken after a Bouchard service return flew long.