Halep is almost guaranteed to move into the top ten after the Australian Open is over, thanks to her three wins so far in Melbourne on top of a stellar 2013 season in which she collected six singles titles. The eleventh seed has progressed beyond the first round in Melbourne just once in four attempts, reaching the third round in 2011 after upsetting Alisa Kleybanova, but the 22-year-old looks a totally different player these days.
Simona Halep (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Tipped by many for an early exit after losing in the first round of Sydney to Madison Keys, Halep has been utterly dominant in two of her three matches, losing just five games against qualifiers Katerzyna Piter and Zarina Diyas, and came back strongly in the third against Varvara Lepchenko after dropping the first set. Jankovic has conceded 14 games and no sets in her three victories so far over Ayumi Morita, Misaki Doi and Kurumi Nara.
Jankovic and Halep have played three times, with Jankovic’s solitary win coming back in 2010 before Halep won in Brussels in 2012 and Rome last year. Both wins for Halep went three sets, however, and Jankovic won their only hard-court encounter, so the 2-1 head-to-head in Halep’s favour might not be the straightforward clue to the probable outcome of this fourth-round meeting that it seems.
Both players’ games lean heavily upon great footwork and speed around the court. Halep is probably slightly the heavier hitter, but Halep has looked in stronger form than Jankovic, particularly in the last round, with the Serb making heavy weather of her defeat of Nara. It’s certain to be a tight match, but Halep is playing with such confidence these days and if she can play with measured aggression she could well edge the more experienced Jankovic.
Jankovic and Halep are scheduled third on Rod Laver Arena at 2am (3am GMT)