INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA -- World No.2 Simona Halep of Romania moved past Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-4, in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday, maintaining her pristine record against the veteran Czech.
Halep needed 86 minutes of play to improve to 5-0 against Strycova, including a previous win in the fourth round of Indian Wells in 2016 -- which happens to be Strycova’s best-ever result at the event. No.2-seeded Halep has never dropped a set against World No.50 Strycova.
"It was pretty difficult in the end," Halep told the press, after the match during windy conditions. "It was not easy to play, but I felt good. Actually, for both of us were tough conditions, so I didn't think that much about it. I think I played good tennis today and, for the first match here, I'm happy about it."
The Romanian had 18 winners in the match to Strycova's eight, and she converted six of her 11 break points during the clash. Strycova's valiant net play was successful 11 of 17 times, but Halep nearly matched her in that metric, with a 10-for-16 success rate.
"Today I really was focused on what I have to do, and I knew how to play against her," Halep continued. "We played so many times. I knew that I have to work for the match, that I have to be ready to run. So I think it was good."
Halep got off to a quick start, breaking Strycova for a 2-0 lead with tremendous groundstroke depth. However, Strycova used her guile to strike back immediately and put the set on serve at 2-1.
But it was Halep who took control of the opening set from there, sparring with the Czech in a long game before the World No.2 reclaimed the break advantage with a crosscourt backhand winner on her third break point.
Halep eased through the remainder of the set, surviving Strycova’s exquisite drop shots by ending up on the victorious side of most rallies. After holding for 5-2, the Romanian blasted a return winner to bring up triple set point on the Czech’s serve. Strycova saved one with a strong serve, but Halep used a forehand to force an error on her second opportunity.
Halep seemed to be on cruise control when she garnered the first break of the second set to take a 3-1 lead. But that only started a returner’s paradise, as four breaks of serve in a row occurred, which ended when Strycova punched an error-forcing volley to hold for 4-4.
In that game, Halep hit unforced errors to fall behind 0-30, and Strycova was edging closer to winning her first set against the Romanian. But Halep closed out that game with three massive service winners to hold on for 5-4 and force Strycova to serve to stay in the match.
There, the Czech pulled from 0-30 to 30-30, but a forehand error gave Halep match point. Halep pushed a forehand into the net to squander that chance, but another error from that wing by Strycova gave Halep a second bite at the apple. One final forehand miscue by Strycova gave Halep the win.
2015 BNP Paribas Open champion Halep now moves into the third round in Indian Wells, where she will face Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova, who upset No.31 seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.