Halep survives scare to reach semis

World No.1 Simona Halep came back from a 1-4, 0-40 deficit in the first set against Lesia Tsurenko to win her Western & Southern Open quarterfinal 6-4, 6-1.

Halep followed her early-morning third-round victory over Australian Ashleigh Barty with another straight-sets win, ultimately prevailing over Tsurenko in 76 minutes.

“It was a tough day,” Halep said. “I’m really tired. But I’m happy that I could win both of them. And the second one I think it was much better from 1-4, and, yeah, I feel confident now. I started to feel the game.”

Halep will face 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who beat Madison Keys. Halep and Sabalenka have met once before, in Shenzhen, when the World No.1 prevailed in straight-sets.

“I know it’s going to be different [than in Shenzhen] because [Sabalenka] has a lot of confidence now and she has beaten so many good players,” Halep said. “But I am confident in the same time. It’s going to be a big challenge for me after so many matches. Tomorrow it’s gonna be a tough one, but I’m here just to play it and I hope to win.”

Tsurenko started with a bang, using strong returns to fluster Halep, coming through a closely-contested four-game patch with a 3-1 lead, after each of those games featured a break point against the server.

The Ukrainian then had triple break point to go up 5-1, before the World No.1 ramped up the aggression on her serve and her groundstrokes, fending off four break points in total in that game to hold for 4-2.

Having been so close to an outrageously commanding lead, Tsurenko faltered in the next game, opening with a double fault en route to break point, then seeing Halep break to get back on serve after a forehand winner down the line put her at 4-3.

Serving at 4-4, Tsurenko was unable to stop the streak of games by Halep, as the Romanian continued to attack the Ukrainian’s delivery with her forehand, and eventually find herself up a break for the first time at 5-4.

Halep closed out the opening frame in the following game after Tsurenko returned a strong serve long; each player had five winners in the set, but Tsurenko finished the opener with six more unforced errors than the Romanian (20 to 14).

More powerful forehands by Halep propelled her to a quick break in the opening game of the second set, and after consolidating for a 2-0 lead, the Romanian had picked off seven games in a row.

Further strong returning by Halep put her up a second break at 3-0, and she raced through to 5-0 from there, notching her tenth straight game as the eyed the second-set whitewash.

Tsurenko put herself on the scoreboard by breaking Halep at love in the following game, ending the Romanian’s winning streak and averting the bagel, but she was unable to hold serve to extend the match, as Halep closed out the match by forcing an error with a stellar backhand.