ADELAIDE, Australia -- Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep emerged triumphant in her first singles match of the 2020 season, as the WTA World No.4 moved past Australian wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-4, 7-5, to reach the second round of the Adelaide International.
Former WTA World No.1 Halep extended her undefeated record against WTA World No.52 Tomljanovic to 3-0 as she eked out the tough two-set win over the homeland hope after one hour and 36 minutes of play.
Romania's Halep finished the match with 19 winners, including seven aces, to 11 unforced errors, and efficiently converted four out of her five break points. Hard-hitting Tomljanovic had 23 winners of her own and won 71 percent of points off of Halep's second serve, but the Australian let six of her eight break points go begging on the day.
"I feel like I served pretty well today, seven aces, so it's good for the donation," she said, referring to the WTA's pledge to donate to Australia's bush fire relief effort.
"And I was moving pretty well. I was strong on my legs. I could respond very well to her very hard hit balls.
"It was a little bit tough that it was the first match of the year, and even if you practice weeks in a row, it's not like when you play a match.
"So I need a little bit of time. I need some matches and then I can feel it better. But it was okay."
Now into the quarterfinals, two-time Grand Slam champion Halep awaits the winner of the second-round affair between No.6 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and American qualifier Bernarda Pera.
Halep claimed the initial lead in the match when she ended a rally with a crosscourt forehand passing winner that landed in the corner, to go up a break for 3-1. Tomljanovic pressed Halep in each of the Romanian’s next two service games, but the No.2 seed pulled through both, punctuating her run to a 5-2 lead with an ace.
Tomljanovic, though, was able to scrap her way back into the set. The hard-hitting Aussie closed out a hold for 5-3 with a forehand winner, then powered to her first service break of the match as she clawed back on serve at 5-4.
However, the Australian squandered a game point with a double fault in the very next game, and she fired two backhand errors from deuce to cede the first set to Halep. The Romanian had 12 winners to just six unforced errors in the opening frame as she eked out the one-set lead over a game Tomljanovic, who had ten winners of her own.
The Halep momentum continued in the second set, as the Romanian claimed an early 2-0 lead after Tomljanovic misfired on a down-the-line backhand on break point. Tomljanovic, though, struck back straight away, pulling back on serve in the next game following errors by Halep.
Halep found herself in danger at 2-2 when she faced three break points, but Tomljanovic was unable to capitalize on any of those chances, and the duo stayed deadlocked on serve for the majority of the second set. Tomljanovic fought hard to keep the match going for as long as she could, mixing some deft touch in with her powerful groundstrokes, with solid results.
But it would be Halep with the final word in the encounter, as Tomljanovic let a 30-0 lead slip at 6-5 after a series of miscues, handing over a match point to the No.2 seed. There, Halep came out on top of a lengthy rally, sealing victory after one final Tomljanovic forehand flew long.
"It's always good to have tough matches, because you need this at the beginning and to get used to the pressure and tension during the matches," she reflected.
"So I'm pleased with the match from today, and I'm sure the next one is going to be tougher."