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Halep battles back in Cincinnati, Barty downs Sharapova

Staff Reporter

Simona Halep fought back from a set down to defeat Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in her Cincinnati WTA opener on Wednesday.

Wimbledon champion Halep, seeded fourth, earned a late break in the penultimate game of the final set to reach the third round after two hours of action.

The Romanian has finished runner-up in Cincinnati three times, last reaching the final a year ago against Kiki Bertens.

In the next round, the 27-year-old, who retired injured from her Toronto quarterfinal against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova last week, will face either Madison Keys of the United States or Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

.@Simona_Halep outlasts Alexandrova in her @CincyTennis opener! She moves onto the third round with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win 💪 pic.twitter.com/vXXUGPVf8K — WTA (@WTA) August 14, 2019

“It was a very, very tough match,” Halep said. “She played well, hitting the ball very strong.

“Mentally, it was tough to return for me at the start after playing injured last week.

“But I didn’t have pain, which is good. It took time to get a rhythm and then do something on court.”

She went up a break in the third set, before letting the lead slip, only for the 43rd-ranked Alexandrova to serve two straight double-faults and fall 5-4 behind.

Halep completed her fightback on a second match point a game later.

“After the first set, I felt I could play aggressive,” she added. “I also changed the tactics.

“I fought and did not give up. I wanted to run for every ball, it felt really good.”

Ninth seed Elina Svitolina, a semifinalist four years ago, advanced past Belgian Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-1.

BARTY DOWNS SHARAPOVA

Top seed Ashleigh Barty powered into the third round with a 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Maria Sharapova.

Australia’s Barty, 23, won the battle of former No 1 players in just over 90 minutes.

The reigning Roland Garros champion beat five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova, who was Cincinnati champion in 2011, for the second time this season after a win at the Australian Open.

It was Barty’s 40th victory of 2019 and she goes on to face either Poland’s Iga Swiatek or Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

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