Top seed Halep survives scare
World No. 1 Simona Halep had to come from 2-5 and a set-point down against Australian teenager Destanee Aiava to win a dramatic first-round match at the Australian Open yesterday.
There were also wins for Britain's Johanna Konta, the unseeded Maria Sharapova and third seed Garbine Muguruza, whose injured right thigh was heavily strapped as she laboured to a 6-4, 6-3 win over wildcard Jessika Ponchet.
Both Halep and her 17-year-old wildcard opponent needed on-court medical attention before the 26-year-old Romanian won 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in an hour and 51 minutes.
Halep had fallen at the first hurdle in the past two years at Melbourne Park and another shock was beckoning when the big-hitting Australian took a 5-2 lead in the first set, buoyed by rowdy home supporters.
"I was actually stressed a little bit because two years in a row, I lost in the first round, so I didn't want to do the third one," admitted Halep.
"She's going to be good in the future. But I'm really happy that I could win the first round. Was really important."
Aiava's fearless charge to the first set in her first appearance on Rod Laver Arena came to a dramatic halt as she called for a medical timeout at the change of ends, complaining of breathing problems.
On her return from treatment, she got to set-point on the Romanian's serve, but once Halep held, the tide turned.
Aiava was still dazed and even tried to change ends at 5-3 in her confused state until the umpire gently ushered her back.
"I think she didn't know what's the score," said Halep.
"I think she thought it's set when she took the medical. The medical maybe helped me. I was lucky a little bit."
Halep showed little of the form which helped her to the Shenzhen title two weeks ago, but used all her experience to extend the rallies and force the ailing Aiava to dig deep.
She then forced a tie-break which she won 7-5 to snatch a marathon first set in 73 minutes.
After racing into a 2-0 lead to start the second set, there was more drama when Halep rolled her ankle, needing medical attention.
But there was no stopping her after she returned with her right ankle newly taped.
Halep will next face Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, a former semi-finalist in Melbourne and Roland Garros. - AFP