PARIS, France - Former World No.1 Simona Halep won a ninth straight match at the French Open on Thursday, suviving Magda Linette, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 to reach the third round.
The defending champion had been pushed to three sets to start her 2019 campaign against Ajla Tomljanovic earlier in the week, and overcame a mid-match hiccup - after holding three match points - to advance once more after two hours and 11 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.
"This match was different, because I was up and I had match points," Halep explained after the match. "So I had the confidence to win the match. I knew that I'm able to win it. So in the third set, I said that I have to stay calm, to still playing what I played also, both sets, doesn't matter -- didn't matter that I lost the second one.
"I just tried to open the court more, because from closer to the body, she played really, really good. I tried also to play with the first serve more. I think mentally I was stronger and I could win this match."
Halep began the match with some stunning play to take a 2-0 lead, only for Linette to edge back and even things out after several marathon games.
Undaunted, the No.3 seed continued battling and found herself serving for the opening set. Linette responded once more by clawing back one of the two breaks, but this deficit proved too big and Halep served out the set on her next opportunity. She broke serve early in the ensuing second set and held on as the match reached its conclusion.
Linette gamely saved a match point on her own serve and pulled off an impressive drop shot to stay within reach. She saved two more match points in the following game - one with an impressive winner - and leveled the set with a break of her own.
As Polish flags waved around Court Suzanne-Lenglen, Linette kept pressing and ultimately broke Halep for a second time to force a decider.
"I didn't know what to expect, because I never played against her and I didn't know how the ball would come," Halep said. "For sure, she played a great match today. The level was really high.
"I just want to congratulate her, because she fought until the end. I think it's a big thing and for her confidence it's going to be good for the future tournaments."
Halep began the final set on more confident footing, winning eight of the first nine points as Linette leaked unforced errors - four in the first two games alone - and fell behind by a quick double break.
The Romanian battled through a close game on serve to hold for 5-1, and though Linette pulled off one last surge, Halep proved too strong, breaking the Pole once more to secure victory.
In all, she struck 27 winners to 44 unforced errors and converted eight of 17 break point chances; Linette played some solid tennis of her own with 31 winners to 42 unforced errors, but only managed six breaks of serve out of 10 opportunities.
Standing between Halep and a spot in the second week is either Aleksandra Krunic or Lesia Tsurenko, who she twice played during the Middle East swing earlier this year, winning both matches in straight sets. The two split sets and were tied at six games apiece when the match was suspended due to darkness.
"It's good I'm still in the tournament, first thing," Halep said. "The second one is different because I can enjoy more. I'm more relaxed.
"I have the title already, so now it's just to see if I'm able to do it again. I motivate myself every day, and I try to push myself every day. So I think it's more beautiful this year."