No. 3 seed Simona Halep got her Miami Open campaign off to a winning start, edging teenager Naomi Osaka in an anticipated second round clash.
WTA Staff

MIAMI, FL, USA -- Taken to the brink for the second time in this matchup, No.3 seed Simona Halep again emerged victorious over rising Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka in the second round of the Miami Open on Friday, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

"It's really important that I could win this match today," Halep said, after the match, referencing her struggles with a knee injury to begin 2017. "I think it was very, very difficult to play against her in the first match here at the tournament, but I'm really happy. I had no pain, I stayed there two hours, fighting, running all over the place... so it's great."

There was little to separate the two players for the duration of their nearly two-hour encounter, which included two rain delays, but Halep improved to 2-0 against Osaka after defeating her in the third round of the French Open last year.

With the teenager Osaka known for her blistering serve, it was Halep who cruised behind her delivery in the first set, dropping a total of three points.

While Osaka almost kept pace at the line for the duration, she blinked in the pivotal ninth game, falling behind 0-40 only to see Halep take the game on her third break point and serve out the set to love.

After Osaka held serve to begin the second set, a brief shower forced the players off court, but upon resumption, Oskaka cranked up the heat on serve and off the ground.

After breaking in the first game out of the delay, Osaka stretched her run to 12 of the next 15 points played after the break to take a two break lead at 4-0. 

"I lost my serve after the rain and I was a little bit too upset," Halep said. "She was very strong there, and I think I did my best third set this year. I think I played my best tennis. I didn't expect her to play that good in the wind. She's hitting the balls pretty hard and she adjusted well today. Her game is strong and she hit, and the wind was moving the ball a lot. From my side, I didn't have pretty good timing to hit. She did very well."

Halep steadied herself in the fifth game, using some all-court tennis to earn back one break and hold in her next game, but the undaunted Osaka held at love and broke to 30 to send the match into a decider.

Halep, who stroked 11 winners in the opening set, saw her stat line nearly reversed in the second, as she hit just four winners to balance 11 unforced errors.

A lengthy third game of the decider, which went to deuce five times, seemed to be the turning point for Halep early as the No. 3 seed broke the Osaka serve to move in front, 2-1. However, Osaka rallied back to knot the set at 3-3 with a break of her own, only to surrender serve at love in the next game to put Halep back in front.

After a second, lengthier delay due to weather, Halep hardly missed a beat, holding serving and breaking Osaka on her second opportunity to close out the match.

"I changed everything that I did before," Halep said about her rain delay thoughts. "I said I had to be fired up from the first point, even if I did a double fault. I just wanted to stay there and fight for every ball."

The Romanian advances to play the winner of the match between No. 32 seed Ekaterina Makarova and Anett Kontaveit.