Tennis

Halep seals top seeding for Australian Open

Romanian secures world No. 1 ranking ahead of season-opening Grand Slam

World No. 1 Simona Halep assured herself of top billing for the Australian Open after powering past local hope Duan Yingying and into the quarter-finals of the Shenzhen Open in China yesterday.

Halep hit 21 winners and won five out of eight break-points to prevail 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and secure her No. 1 ranking going into next week and top seeding for Melbourne, ahead of Caroline Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza.

However, the Romanian did not have it easy until her rival suffered a thigh problem late on in the match after blazing through the first set to take the lead.

Caught off-guard by Duan's big hitting early on, Halep turned things around in the second set and broke the world No. 91 twice for a 5-1 lead before levelling the contest.

Duan took a medical timeout and returned for the decider with heavy strapping on her left thigh.

Halep, who battled past Duan in their previous meeting in Eastbourne last year, took advantage as Duan struggled to find her rhythm and raced to a 5-0 lead. She then subdued a late fightback to seal the win in 97 minutes.

"I knew that she is playing really hard and hitting every ball. I knew I had to be strong on my legs," Halep said.

"After the first set, I knew I had to find the rhythm a little bit, to stay closer to the baseline and just open the court better, which I did very well.

"It was not easy, even though the scores were 6-1, 6-2. It was a very tough match."

Halep faces another big-hitter in teenage sensation Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus today.

It was not easy, even though the scores were 6-1, 6-2. It was a very tough match. Simona Halep, on her win over China's Duan Yingying

Halep's compatriot and fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu overcame Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Begu meets Hungary's Timea Babos in the last eight.

In the other quarter-finals, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova faces world No. 66 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, while Katerina Siniakova and Kristyna Pliskova face off in an all-Czech affair. - REUTERS, AFP

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