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'I want to win badly every match I play'- Halep battles past Buzarnescu to set up Azarenka blockbuster

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 4 Jul 2019
  • Simona Halep set up a mouth-watering third-round meeting with Victoria Azarenka after battling past fellow Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu
  • Halep and Azarenka will meet for the first time since Wimbledon 2017
Simona Halep. (PA Sport)

Simona Halep set up a blockbuster third round meeting with fellow former world No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, following a hard-fought 6-3 4-6 6-2 victory over fellow Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Halep is through to the third round at Wimbledon for the fifth time in the last six years, and will attempt to make the second week at the All England Club for just the fourth time in her career when she takes on Azarenka on Friday.

It hasn’t been the most convincing start to the tournament for Halep, who almost dropped a set in the first round against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, battling back from 2-5 down in the second set to win a 6-4 7-5 victory, and she was again made to work very hard by Buzarnescu in the first tour-level meeting between the two Romanians.

Despite getting in a decent percentage of first serves- Halep with a 68% accuracy and Buzarnescu, 72%- both players struggled to hold serve, combining for 15 breaks during the topsy-turvy contest, but it was Halep’s better returning helped her over the line, the former world No. 1 claiming nine breaks of serve. Halep kept Buzarnescu below 50% of points won on first and second serves, and was particularly severe on the latter, restricting her opponent to just 9 of 24 points on second serve. The two players also struggled to keep the ball inside the court, with Halep committing 19 unforced errors (hitting 12 winners), and Buzarnescu making 44 errors, against her 25 winners.

Halep looked set to cruise to victory when she won five straight games to open up a 6-3 2-0 lead, but the match swung again in Buzarnescu’s direction, as the lower-ranked Romanian won four consecutive games to take a 4-2 lead. Halep got it back to 4-4, but she lost two games in a row to concede the set. The see-saw continued into the third set as Halep got an early break, only to be pegged back, but the Romanian finally pulled away from 3-2, winning three straight games to close out the win after an hour and 53 minutes.

"I think I'm playing okay," Halep said after the match. "It's always tough on grass, but it was a tougher match than first one, so it was good that I could win it. Also I had tough moments during this match. I lost the second set when I was leading the set. Then I just had to fight till the end and for every ball, which I'm really happy that I did. I felt confident on court. I felt also strong mentally."

Halep will definitely have to raise her game for the third-round meeting with Azarenka, who has looked very sharp in the opening rounds at the All England Club. 

The Belarusian took out the dangerous Alize Cornet 6-4 6-4 in the first round before blowing away Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 6-0 in the second round on Wednesday. Azarenka dropped the first two games against Tomljanovic, but the two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist rattled through the next twelve to close out the win in just over an hour.

Halep and Azarenka are locked at 2-2 in their head-to-head, but the Romanian has won the last two meetings, the most recent of which was a 7-6 6-2 victory at Wimbledon in 2017.

"It's going to be a big challenge for me, tough one, because she's playing not very flat but she's very aggressive. So on grass it's not that easy”, Halep said of her upcoming battle with Azarenka. 
"I want to win badly every match I play".

Simona Halep vs Victoria Azarenka is live from Wimbledon on Friday, 5 July.

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"I want to win badly every match I play"- Halep battles past Buzarnescu to set up Azarenka blockbuster

Simona Halep set up a mouth-watering third-round meeting with Victoria Azarenka after battling past fellow Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu on Wednesday.

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