No.2 seed Simona Halep closed out a tense two-setter against Peng Shuai in emphatic fashion to reach the second week of Wimbledon for the third time in four years - former No.1 Victoria Azarenka awaits on Manic Monday.
WTA Staff

LONDON, Great Britain - Simona Halep put on an impressive display in the final staged of her third round encounter with Peng Shuai, powering past the former Chinese No.1, 6-4, 7-6(7), to clinch her spot in the second week at the Wimbledon Championships.

"I'm really happy," Halep said after the match. "I think I'm playing better every match. Today was a very high level of tennis. She plays really well. I played well. I'm really thankful with the way that I played and how I've been on court.

"So everything went pretty good."

Halep had never played Peng before, but had just made it past big-hitting Brazilian Biatriz Haddad Maia in her previous match and was thus prepared for the former US Open semifinalist's powerful groundstrokes.

"I don't take the match like a test. I take it as very important. It's open always when I go on court. Anyone can win the match between the both of us. So I'm just trying to stay focused, to do my job as good as I can, and just trying to win.

"Today was pretty close and was a tough one."

The first set was evenly matched, with the pair hitting about as many winners as unforced errors - six each from Halep while Peng hit 10 winners to 11 errors - but Halep wrested the momentum after falling behind an early breaking, winning five of the next six games from 1-3 down.

Halep appeared keen to continue that sort of form in the second set as she broke serve in the seventh game, but Peng broke straight back and ultimately forced a tiebreak.

There was little to separate the two in the ensuing sudden death until Peng saved a match point after the Romanian stopped the rally to challenge. Peng's shot was in, but Halep was undaunted, throwing in a fifth ace and a powerful return to clinch the match after one hour and 38 minutes of hard-fought action on No.2 Court.

"It's set in my mind now. When I have these balls, I just go and I try to hit and to take the initiative."

In all, both players maintained impressive stats, with the No.2 seed striking 19 winners to 13 unforced errors; Peng hit 27 winners of her own, but was undone by 19 errors.

Up next for the two-time French Open finalist is former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, who narrowly edged past hometown favorite Heather Watson in three sets.

"She was not a mom, so is different now," Halep joked.

"It's a great thing, what she did. It's going to be big challenge for me, for sure. Even if she stayed off tour for one year, she's a tough opponent and a great champion.

"I'm just going there to give my best. Of course I believe I have my chance to win. But like I said, the match is open. I have just to step in and to take my chances."

Halep and Azarenka last played at the 2015 US Open, which Halep won in three tough sets on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"It's one of my best matches in tennis. I remember that I was running pretty well. I was hitting the balls very hard. She was doing the same thing. So the level was very high.

"Also mentally I stayed strong. So I have just to take every ball very important. Every ball, it matters when I play against her. So I have just to be ready, to be fit, to be 100%, to go there and believe that I have my chance."

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