In a Tuesday morning clash between the two highest-ranked Romanians on the Hologic WTA Tour, No.24 seed Simona Halep dismissed 26th-seeded Sorana Cirstea 6-1, 6-4 to book a return to the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals for the fifth time.
The 2015 Indian Wells champion Halep needed 1 hour and 20 minutes to knock out her compatriot in their first meeting in more than 11 years, leveling their head-to-head at 2-2.
Simona speaks: "It's been a good match," Halep said in her post-match press conference. "I think I played super good in the first set. The second set I started to miss a little bit. But in the big picture it was a great match and I'm super pleased with the victory.
"I think everybody has a little bit of stress when it's playing against a person that is from the same country. But I can say I'm used to it. I've played so many times with all the Romanians. But with her I didn't play in the last 12 years, so it was something new.
"I feel happy that slowly I find my rhythm. I find the joy being on court, competing, and also fighting for every point I play."
Romanian ranks: Former World No.1 Halep was defending her position as the top Romanian in the singles rankings. If 31-year-old Cirstea had pulled off the upset, she would have displaced 30-year-old Halep as the Romanian No.1 in Monday’s upcoming rankings.
Cirstea was the last player other than Halep to hold the Romanian No.1 position, when she was positioned at her career-high ranking of No.21 and Halep was two spots behind her at No.23 during the week of Aug. 19, 2013.
However, the straight-sets victory guaranteed that Halep would exit Indian Wells as the highest-ranked Romanian. Halep has been the top-ranked Romanian player since Aug. 26, 2013, a span of 447 consecutive weeks (including the two weeks of this year’s BNP Paribas Open).
Halep continued a dominating winning streak against her countrywomen. Since losing to Cirstea at Cincinnati qualifying in 2010 (the most recent meeting between the pair), Halep has won 19 straight matches against fellow Romanians, dropping only four sets in that run.
Read more: The best quotes from Week 1 in Indian Wells
Tale of the match: Halep was in nearly complete control of the opening set, breaking Cirstea three times to sweep to the one-set lead. Halep had six winners to Cirstea’s four in the opener, while Cirstea was undone by 14 unforced errors.
Cirstea made her move in the second set, though, unleashing a forehand return winner to break for an early 1-0 lead. After a routine hold to consolidate for 2-0, Cirstea looked to keep herself in front and possibly send the match into a decider.
But Halep broke back for 2-2, then boldly saved three break points in the subsequent game to take a lead in the second set for the first time. Halep held on from there to 5-4, where Cirstea’s first double fault of the match gave Halep a match point. After a Cirstea backhand miscue, Halep was safely into the elite eight in the desert.
Martic up next: In the quarterfinals, Halep will take on Petra Martic of Croatia. Martic moved into her second career BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal with a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over No.28 seed Liudmila Samsonova.
Former Top 15 player Martic has seen her ranking slide to World No.79, but she has has picked up four wins this week (including over reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the previous round) to exhibit improving form and reach her first quarterfinal of 2022.
"I think I competed well overall," Martic said afterward. "I think when I started playing [at a] lower level last year, I felt like my competitive side was a little bit not as good, not as sharp. I was losing tight matches as opposed to winning them before that.
"Now I feel like even if I don't play great I can still win. I believe that and at the end I managed to do that. So that's a big thing for me."
Martic won a dazzling 80 percent of her first-service points against powerful Samsonova, who won her first title last year on the grass courts of Berlin. After over an hour of play, Martic prevailed in the tightly contested first-set tiebreak to notch the one-set lead.
The duo was deadlocked in the second set through 4-4, but Martic broke in that game to serve for the match. Martic, who reached the Indian Wells quarterfinals in 2018, had to fend off one final break point in the last game before advancing to that round once again.
As it turns out, Halep was the player who ousted Martic in the Indian Wells 2018 quarterfinals. Halep leads their head-to-head 2-1.