PARIS, France - After racing through the opening set, Simona Halep was given all she could handle by Daria Kasatkina, but the No.3 seed rose to the challenge to earn a straight sets victory, 6-0, 7-5 in the third round of the French Open.
Kasatkina led 5-3 in the second set and held a total of four set points as she looked to push the match to a decider, but Halep saved her best tennis for the critical moments to turn the match around for a straight sets victory.
" It was a good match. I think I played really well the whole match, even if she has the 5-3 in the second set," Halep said. "I felt that I was pushing her back, and also I was rolling the ball pretty well. I think it was a very high standard of tennis today. Also, she played really well. I mean, she's a very tough opponent when I play her always.
"It's difficult even if I won the first set 6-0, I knew it's gonna be tougher, the second one. I'm really happy with the way I played today."
For the match, the 2014 finalist was in strong form, as she doubled her output of winners (25) to unforced errors (13).
Halep hurried through the opening set in under 30 minutes, but the scoreline did little justice to Kasatkina as the first three games went to deuce. Halep broke the Russian's serve in the opening game on her third opportunity after setting up break point with a forehand winner, and later added an insurance break after another deuce game to lead 3-0 at the first sit-down.
The opener got away from the Russian from there, as Halep allowed her just four points in the next three games to cruise to a one-set lead. The Romanian served at a 75 percent clip in the opener, and allowed Kasatkina just seven points in her service games.
Kasatkina settled in for the second set, as she held serve to get on the board in the opening game, but Halep broke serve in the next Kasatkina service game and stretched her lead to 6-0, 3-1.
After saving break point in the fifth game, Kasatkina increased the aggression off the ground, especially from her topspin forehand. A trio of tight games won to 30 - including a break of the Halep serve after she created a 0-40 opportunity in the eighth game - gave the Russian a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve for the set. The Russian saved a pair of break points to bring up her first set point, which Halep saved with a backhand winner en route to getting the set back on serve.
Two consecutive winners proceeded to earn Kasatkina a 15-40 in the next game, but some agressive play from Halep forced the Russian into mistakes, as she saved a total of three set points in the game to level the match at 5-5.
After getting the set on even terms, Halep rolled to a love break in the 10th game, before serving the set out to book her place in the second week for the French Open for the fourth time.
"[It's a] very nice feeling to be again in the second week. I had good matches, not easy at all. I played well, and the most important thing is that I'm playing better match by match. [It] gives me confidence for the next week, and also nerves, but better nerves this time.
"I'm not feeling pressure and I'm not feeling that I'm favorite. I just have confidence that I have my chance. I have the game to play till the end. But you never know in tennis. I will take match by match, and if I will be in the last match, then I will be very happy."