PARIS, France - No.3 seed Simona Halep posted her first straight-set win of Roland Garros 2019 to make the second week for the fifth time in her career, defeating Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6-1 in just 55 minutes.
The defending champion enjoyed a smooth passage over an opponent she has dominated for a decade: Halep and Tsurenko first met in the second round of an ITF W25 event in Opole, Poland in November 2009, and in eight meetings the Ukrainian has garnered just one set, at Wimbledon 2014. Today's encounter - the third time the pair have played in 2019 - found Halep conceding the fewest games in any of their clashes (aside from a Tsurenko retirement in Linz in 2012).
Tsurenko, who had to complete her epic 5-7, 7-5, 11-9 second-round win over Aleksandra Krunic yesterday - the eighth-longest match of the year so far - got off to the worst possible start. Two double faults paved the way to an immediate break, and despite breaking back immediately with a return winner, another three double faults in a row handed the advantage right back to Halep. Tsurenko would manage to stem this statistic, but would still not manage to hold serve over the course of the match, coming closest in the fifth game of the second set, which found the four-time WTA titlist squandering a 40-15 lead to get on the board.
Following the opening three-break exchange, Halep stepped on the gas, testing Tsurenko's movement by pumping heavy shots from corner to corner. The US Open quarterfinalist, who had visibly struggled physically during her epic against Krunic, was found wanting. Forced into error after error when pushed out of the court, she opted for a first-strike strategy that briefly paid dividends with a break back for 2-4 - but only briefly.
Quickly adjusting, Halep came up with a marvelous backhand angle and a canny dropshot to regain the double break, and resumed control from there. Tsurenko's mistakes continued to pile up: she would commit 32 unforced errors, 18 in the first set and 14 in the second, to just eight winners today. One of those, a backhand over the baseline, sealed the first set for Halep on the former World No.1's third set point.
The second set was even more one-way traffic as Tsurenko, who took a medical time-out trailing 0-3, continued to lose the physical battle. The 30-year-old, whose fourth-round run in Paris last year was also halted by injury as she retired to Garbiñe Muguruza at that stage, found no answers to either her own inability to find any range with her groundstrokes - or Halep's sharp point construction.
Halep took the opportunity to show off more of her repertoire than usual, coming forward to put points away with both drive volleys and delicately angled droppers. Although Tsurenko broke Halep with another flash of accurate first strikes to avoid the bagel, it was one of the latter that sealed victory for the Romanian on her third match point. A fourth-round tilt against either Monica Puig or 18-year-old Wimbledon junior champion Iga Swiatek awaits.