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Halep vs Pliskova WTA Rome tennis live streaming, preview and predictions

Defending champion Karolina Pliskova meets top seed Simona Halep in an enthralling Internazionali BNL d’Italia final on Monday.

Halep vs Pliskova is live from Rome on Monday 21 September, 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST

Will it be third time lucky for Simona Halep? A hard-fought win over Garbine Muguruza put the world no. 2 into the WTA Rome final once again, and for the first time, she won’t be facing Elina Svitolina there.

WTA Rome 2020: Find out tournament information for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and how to stream WTA Rome matches live

Karolina Pliskova is looking to follow in Svitolina’s footsteps and boost her confidence ahead of the French Open by capturing back-to-back Internazionali BNL d’Italia titles – can she power past Halep in Monday’s final?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Halep vs Pliskova live

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Halep vs Pliskova: Head-to-head

Simona Halep leads the head-to-head with Karolina Pliskova 7-4, but has lost their last two encounters.

On clay, the head-to-head is 1-1, with Halep winning in three sets at the French Open in 2017 and Pliskova winning in Madrid in 2018.

Halep vs Pliskova: Preview

It’s hard to imagine a better curtain-raiser for the women’s French Open than the WTA side of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia this week, and the final should be a fitting denouement as top seed and French Open favourite Halep takes on defending champion Pliskova.

Halep hadn’t been pushed too hard in Rome this week and progressed to the semifinals via Yulia Putintseva’s retirement, but she was always going to have to work hard in a bruising semifinal clash against Garbine Muguruza on Sunday and so it proved. In a battle of French Open champions and a rematch of January’s Australian Open semifinal, Halep preserved her perfect record against Muguruza on clay, but not without a fight. The world no. 2 dominated the opening set and led 4-2 in the second, but Muguruza, struggling physically after lengthy matches against Coco Gauff and Victoria Azarenka, shortened the points and began going for broke on her shots, reeling off four straight games to level. The third set was the match in miniature, with a dominant Halep building a 5-1 lead, only for Muguruza to break twice to get back to 4-5; two double faults from the struggling Spaniard, however, saw Halep wrap up a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory.

Karolina Pliskova (Alfredo Falcone – LaPresse – PA Images)

Pliskova had had her own three-set battle against Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals, but kept things under control in an all-Czech semifinal clash with Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up. Pliskova blasted through the opening set with her trademark power, but had to recover a break at the beginning of the second set before squandering a 4-1 lead to be pegged back to 4-4. The crucial game at 4-4 saw the world no. 4 save break point before breaking for a 6-1, 6-4 win.

Pliskova’s win took only 83 minutes, giving her something of a physical advantage over Halep on Sunday, but it shouldn’t be a big factor with Halep not dropping a set coming into the semifinals.

Pliskova has had the best of the rivalry in recent times, winning three of the past four meetings including their most recent clay encounter, but it’s difficult to point to a big reason why this should be as each of those matches was very different. As Halep has worked to make her game more aggressive, she’s got a tendency to make more unforced errors, slightly changing the dynamic which is fundamentally one of counterpuncher against first-strike player. But that by no means suggests that she can’t beat Pliskova on her day.

Both women have been playing really brilliant tennis this week, so it’s a promising final. For me, Halep is still the superior clay-court player, and she’s won their only match which took place in conditions remotely similar; for that reason, I’m backing the two-time Rome runner-up to finally get her hands on the trophy.

Halep vs Pliskova: Prediction

In a battle of French Open champions, can Garbine Muguruza get her first win on clay over Simona Halep and reach the Rome final to boot?

Azarenka vs Muguruza is live from Rome on Saturday 19 September, 2pm local/1pm BST

World no. 2 Simona Halep is out to underline her status as favourite for the French Open by reaching the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for the third time, and has yet to drop a set in Rome, reaching the semifinals when Yulia Putintseva retired trailing 2-6, 0-2.

WTA Rome 2020: Find out tournament information for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and how to stream ATP Rome matches live

Now on a 12-match winning streak, Halep faces the last woman to beat her, Garbine Muguruza, in a mesmerising semifinal clash. Muguruza leads the head-to-head but has never beaten Halep on a clay court.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Halep vs Muguruza live

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Halep vs Muguruza: Head-to-head

Garbine Muguruza leads the head-to-head with Simona Halep 4-2, and won their most recent encounter 7-6(8), 7-5 in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

But Halep has won the only two matches the two have played on clay, beating Muguruza in Stuttgart in 2015 and 6-1, 6-4 at the French Open in 2018.

Halep vs Muguruza: Preview

It’s crazy to think that the last match Simona Halep lost was her semifinal clash with Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open: A gruelling affair which lasted over two hours on a scorching hot day and saw Muguruza save four set points in the first set, then break Halep as she served to level the match, winning the last three games for a 7-6(8), 7-5 win.

Denied a place in the Australian Open final, Halep bounced back by winning her 20th and 21st career titles in Dubai and Prague on either side of the six-month shutdown enforced on tennis by the global pandemic. In addition to having won 12 straight matches, Halep has won her last 13 sets, beating Jasmine Paolini and Dayana Yastremska in straight sets in Rome before progressing to the semifinals when Yulia Putintseva retired trailing 2-6, 0-2, having seen her bright start to the match quickly disintegrate under the pressure of Halep’s assured shotmaking.

Halep went out to practice afterwards to try to make up for the limited time on court, which leaves her in an ambiguous position coming into the semifinals: On the one hand she has a definite energy advantage, but on the other, she’ll face a stiff rise in the level of competition she’s been up against when she takes the court against Muguruza.

Garbine Muguruza (Alfredo Falcone – LaPresse – PA Images)

In this clash of French Open and Wimbledon champions, Muguruza definitely arrives battle-hardened. Although she went out of the US Open early to the tricky Tsvetana Pironkova, the Spaniard has had a tough draw in Rome, beating Sloane Stephens and 2019 finalist Johanna Konta in straight sets and having to battle through three-set clashes with Coco Gauff and Victoria Azarenka.

Beating US Open finalist Azarenka has looked like a nearly impossible task of late, and the Belarusian came into the match having won 15 of her last 16 matches, but Muguruza proved herself equal to the challenge in a gruelling physical battle. Neither player had the momentum for long in an evenly-matched contest, with Muguruza leading 3-1 in the final set before nearly falling behind 3-5. While both players played attacking tennis whenever they were able, Muguruza defended brilliantly – something that’s a sign of her playing at or near her best – and was able to win, crucially, more points behind her second serve. That, and one more break of serve than Azarenka could muster, decided the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 contest.

It only gets tougher, again, for Muguruza, though, as she tries to reach her first Rome final: A well-rested and seemingly fit Halep. Muguruza edged past Halep at the Australian Open with the aid of a slightly bigger serve, slightly more explosive shotmaking and, most importantly, attacking tennis at the biggest moments; those were all the elements which got Muguruza past Azarenka in the quarterfinals.

Halep vs Muguruza: Prediction

Simona Halep targets a fifth Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinal appearance as she takes on Yulia Putintseva in Rome.

Halep vs Putintseva is live from Rome on Saturday 19 September, 12pm local/11am BST

Now on an 11-match winning streak, Simona Halep has never lost a quarterfinal match at the Foro Italico, a record she looks to maintain as she takes on Yulia Putintseva on Saturday.

WTA Rome 2020: Find out tournament information for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and how to stream ATP Rome matches live

Halep is 17-2 in 2020 and won her only previous match against Putintseva in straight sets, but the feisty Kazakh is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist and a fiery opponent.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Halep vs Putintseva: Head-to-head

Simona Halep and Yulia Putintseva have played once before, at the Australian Open in January when Halep won 6-1, 6-4.

Halep vs Putintseva: Preview

Top seed Simona Halep is the current favourite with oddsmakers to win the French Open, and the clay-loving Romanian looks set to bolster that status with a deep run in Rome. Halep has never won the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but she’s made the final twice and the semifinals twice and has only failed to make the semifinals when reaching the last 16 once – in 2014, when she gave Carla Suarez Navarro a walkover.

In 2020, in so many ways, all bets are off, of course, but Halep started the season strong with an Australian Open semifinal run and a title in Dubai, and she has made it clear that clay is her focus on the WTA Tour’s resumption: A title in Prague, where she beat Elise Mertens in the final, means that she brought a nine-match winning streak into Rome.

That streak has now been extended to 11 straight wins after victories over Italian wildcard Jasmine Paolini and rising Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska.

Halep was broken to open by Paolini before winning 6-3, 6-4, and she trailed Yastremska 0-3 in the first set as well before turning things around. In both cases, it was the power off the ground which rocked Halep back on her heels in the early stages, but once she found her rhythm, she never looked back. Swiftly getting back on serve against Yastremska, she pounced on her opportunity when Yastremska struggled on serve at 5-5 to break. It was the first of five straight games won by Halep that would see her lead 7-5, 3-0, and although Yastremska did get one break back, Halep closed out a 7-5, 6-4 win thanks to her insurance break.

Halep has now won 12 straight sets since dropping the first to Barbora Krejcikova in the second round of Prague, and she will be clearly favoured in this quarterfinal clash with Putintseva.

Yulia Putintseva is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist (PA Images)

The Kazakh made the quarterfinals of the French Open in 2016 and 2018, and made the third Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career at the US Open over the last fortnight, where she beat tenth seed Petra Martic before falling to Jennifer Brady. Martic, also seeded eighth in Rome, once again fell to Putintseva in three sets, as did Elena Rybakina despite serving for the match. It’s not surprising. Putintseva, not the tallest or most physically imposing player, is an excellent defender and counter-puncher who has been working hard to add more of a transition game to her arsenal; and if you can’t outgun Putintseva with sheer power, as Brady did, you had better be prepared to run a lot.

Halep is always prepared to run a lot. She and Putintseva share a fundamentally counterpunching game, but Halep is much, much better at consistently hitting through her forehand using it to dictate, and at making her way forward to finish points in the forecourt. Their Australian Open match saw Halep’s serve dominating in the first set before a much more even second; on clay, it feels like a tight two sets or possibly even three, but a victory for Halep.

Halep vs Putintseva: Prediction

Two-time Rome runner-up Simona Halep takes on rising Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska for the first time.

Halep vs Yastremska is live from Rome on Friday 18 September, 1pm local/12pm BST

World no. 2 Simona Halep brings a ten-match winning streak, maintained on either side of the six-month ATP and WTA shutdown, into a third-round clash with Dayana Yastremska at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Friday.

WTA Rome 2020: Find out tournament information for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and how to stream ATP Rome matches live

Halep is looking to find her top form ahead of the French Open as she takes on Yastremska, the 20-year-old who won her first WTA clay-court title in Strasbourg last summer, for a place in the quarterfinals.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Halep vs Yastremska live

WTA Rome matches including Simona Halep vs Dayana Yastremska are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Halep vs Yastremska: Head-to-head

Simona Halep and Dayana Yastremska have never played before.

Halep vs Yastremska: Preview

Simona Halep continued her strong form as she defeated Jasmine Paolini to get off to a winning start at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where all indications are that the Romanian will be tough to beat.

Although she suffered a surprise defeat to Marketa Vondrousova in Rome last year, Halep otherwise has an excellent record, reaching the final in 2017-18 and the semifinals in 2013 and 2015. The 2018 French Open champion is also an impressive 16-2 in 2020, with her only defeats so far coming to Aryna Sabalenka in Adelaide and Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January. Since then, Halep has won the 20th title of her career in Dubai and, returning from the six-month shutdown, the 21st of her career in Prague, where she beat Elise Mertens in the final.

Halep came back from an early break down against Paolini, the Italian wildcard ranked just inside the top 100 at the moment, breaking Paoloni’s serve eight times although she surrendered her own five times. The top seed profited from seven double faults from her opponent, but served solidly herself and altogether made a very decent start to her Rome campaign.

Dayana Yastremska has won three WTA International titles (Alfredo Falcone – LaPresse 14/09/2020)

It’s also fortunate for Halep that she doesn’t have to face Amanda Anisimova, who blew her off the court in last year’s French Open, although Yastremska is also a dangerous opponent.

Yet to become a big name, although surely not far from it, 20-year-old Yastremska won three WTA Tour International-level titles in 2018-19 and made the fourth round of Wimbledon last year. She rose to a career-high world no. 21 in January after finishing runner-up to Ashleigh Barty in Adelaide, having beaten Sabalenka and Angelique Kerber (via retirement), and picked up a win over Sofia Kenin on her way to the round of 16 in Dubai before the shutdown.

Yastremska won back-to-back matches in Palermo and ‘Cincinnati’ on her return to action, defeating Venus Williams at the latter in a three-set thriller, but suffered an early defeat to Madison Brengle at the US Open. Both her matches in Rome so far have gone the distance, with Yastremska overcoming two very different power players in Anisimova and Camila Giorgi to make the last 16.

That’s not great preparation for facing Halep, against whom careful point construction is much more of a necessity even for power players because of her superb defense and ability to absorb and redirect pace. Yastremska is 2-9 vs top-10 players, with both those wins coming on hard courts; she’s an extremely feisty and attacking player, and I could absolutely see her taking a set from Halep on hard courts. On clay, I’m less certain of it.

Halep vs Yastremska: Prediction

Six of the WTA’s top 10 highlight an Internazionali BNL d’Italia draw which will be electric from the word go, with Victoria Azarenka vs Venus Williams among first-round clashes.

We break down the women’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as world no. 2 Simona Halep, defending champion Karolina Pliskova and two-time winner Elina Svitolina lead the field at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

WTA Rome Preview

Usually played in May but rescheduled to September in 2020, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is among the most prestigious clay-court tournaments on the WTA Tour and is a key battleground ahead of the French Open.

Many of the top players who chose not to travel for the US Open will be playing the first big event of their comebacks to competition, including Halep, Svitolina and Belinda Bencic, while defending champion Pliskova, Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza are among those looking to improve on early US Open exits.

WTA Rome Draw Analysis

Top Quarter

Simona Halep is a two-time Rome runner-up (PA Images)

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Simona Halep (1) vs Petra Martic (8)
Halep has already picked up a title post-shutdown on clay in Prague, but elected not to travel to the USA.

A Rome finalist in 2017-18, Halep will open against Anastasija Sevastova – who is not in great form, and has lost her last five vs Halep – or Italian wildcard Jasmine Paolini; her third opponent will be one of a cluster of unpredictable power players, with big servers Donna Vekic and Amanda Anisimova facing off in the first round and Camila Giorgi or Dayana Yastremska awaiting the winner.

Martic did play the US Open, and could have a chance to avenge her fourth-round defeat in New York to Yulia Putintseva in the second round. Her projected third-round opponent is Elena Rybakina, who impressed so much in the early part of the year, but has yet to regain that form post-shutdown and will probably go out in the first round to Ekaterina Alexandrova, who leads their head-to-head 2-0. Alexandrova has never had particularly strong results on clay but she’s always a danger at the moment.

Predicted semifinalist: Halep

Second Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Sofia Kenin (3) vs Johanna Konta (8)
Konta reached the Rome final and the French Open semifinals last year, proving (including to herself) that she could play on clay, but is having some mixed results at the moment. She could open against Elisabetta Cocciaretto, an Italian wildcard having some good wins recently, but it’s the third round where things get dangerous. Konta’s projected third-round opponent is Garbine Muguruza, who looked so resurgent when she made the Australian Open final but lost early at the US Open to Tsvetana Pironkova; Muguruza faces Sloane Stephens in the first round, with the winner to take on either Ons Jabeur or Coco Gauff.

Australian Open champion Kenin played well at the US Open before losing to Elise Mertens, but she’s got a tough draw: Her first opponent will be either Venus Williams or Victoria Azarenka, although the latter will surely pull out after reaching the US Open final. Angelique Kerber could await in the third round, although clay is probably Kerber’s worst surface. In a quarter full of inconsistent shotmakers, I trust counterpunching consistency.

Predicted semifinalist: Kenin

Elina Svitolina won back-to-back Internazionali BNL d’Italia titles in 2017-18 (PA Images)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Kiki Bertens (5) vs Elina Svitolina (4)
A quarterfinal between 2019 Madrid champion Bertens and two-time Rome winner Svitolina would be a real treat, but will we see it?
Svitolina is playing her first tournament since Monterrey in Rome, and she has a hell of a tough draw, with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a probable opening opponent and Anett Kontaveit, who plays very well on clay, likely to await in the third round if she can get past former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second.

Bertens’s draw is not so tough – she’ll probably open against Polona Hercog and could face 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, who is really not on great form at the moment, in the third. I anticipate a powerhouse quarterfinal battle between Bertens and Kontaveit.

Predicted semifinalist: Bertens

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Belinda Bencic (6) vs Karolina Pliskova (2)
Defending Rome champion Pliskova was the only WTA top-10 player based in Europe to make the trip to the USA, and she was not well rewarded, going 1-2 in New York. Pliskova could face Veronika Kudermetova, who beat her in ‘Cincinnati’, as her first opponent and while Alison Riske, on clay, is not a very dangerous opponent, Jil Teichmann could be. Teichmann is 13-8 in 2020 and won two WTA clay titles in 2019.

Bencic, playing her first tournament since February, could face hard-hitting Julia Goerges in the second round – not an easy task – while Elise Mertens, who played very well at the US Open on her way to the quarterfinals, could be a real threat in this section if she’s able to bring that same form to clay.

Semifinalist: Mertens

WTA Internazionali BNL d’Italia Prediction

Semifinals:

Halep d. Kenin
Mertens d. Bertens

Final:

Halep d. Mertens

Simona Halep has pulled out of the US Open, becoming the sixth WTA Tour top-10 player to do so.

World no. 2 Simona Halep announced her decision not to play the 2020 US Open.

Six of the world’s top ten female players, including defending champion Bianca Andreescu and world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty, have now pulled out of the upcoming Grand Slam.

The US Open will be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, with players subject to health and safety protocols. The USA remains the nation hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 5 million confirmed cases and over 170,000 deaths. The state of New York alone has had over 32,000 deaths.

Halep wrote:

‘After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the [US Open]

‘I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe. I know the USTA and WTA have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament.’

The reigning Wimbledon champion, Halep was unable to defend her title at the All-England Club when the tournament was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War. The Romanian has long sounded doubtful about the possibility of playing the US Open, and she has a record of being cautious when it comes to health issues: Halep pulled out of the Rio Olympics in 2016 due to concerns over the Zika virus, and just two weeks ago she withdrew from the Palermo Ladies Open citing a rise in COVID-19 cases in Romania and her ‘anxieties’ about international air travel.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming

Halep played her first tournament since tennis was shut down in early March at the Prague Open last week instead, and won the 21st title of her career there, defeating Elise Mertens in the final.

The Romanian is now 15-2 in 2020, and would be expected to return to action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where she is a two-time finalist. The tournament begins on 14 September and will be followed by the French Open from 27 September.

Halep’s best result at the US Open came in 2015 when she reached the semifinals. She has won only one match on her last three appearances.

 

Halep joins world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty, defending champion Bianca Andreescu, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic in pulling out of the US Open. Svitolina, Bertens and Bencic are all expected to play the European clay-court season, while Barty and Andreescu have yet to confirm.

Karolina Pliskova, who is the only top-10 WTA player based outside the USA to be travelling to New York, will be the top seed. She is joined by world no. 9 Serena Williams, the six-time US Open champion; 2018 winner Naomi Osaka; and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, all based in the USA. Three-time champion Kim Clijsters has taken a wildcard.

Williams played her first tournament since March at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky last week, losing in the quarterfinals to Shelby Rogers.

The projected top eight seeds for the US Open currently look like this (WTA ranking in brackets):

1. Karolina Pliskova (3)
2. Sofia Kenin (4)
3. Serena Williams (9)
4. Naomi Osaka (10)
5. Aryna Sabalenka (11)
6. Petra Kvitova (12)
7. Madison Keys (13)
8. Petra Martic (14)

On the men’s side, defending champion Rafael Nadal has pulled out, as has former winner Stan Wawrinka. Currently, seven of the top 10 are expected to play with world no. 1 Novak Djokovic leading the field. Andy Murray has taken a wildcard.

Simona Halep has been battling to readjust to the rigors of competition – can she get her first straight-sets win of the week in Prague against lucky loser Magdalena Frech?

Halep vs Frech is live from Prague on Friday 14 August at 2pm local/1pm BST

World no. 2 Simona Halep is now on a six-match winning streak, having won the Dubai Championships in February and returned from a six-month hiatus to win back-to-back matches at the Prague Open.

WTA Prague: Tournament information, schedules and live streams for the Prague Open

Wins haven’t come easily for Halep though, who has had to go the distance twice and struggled physically on Thursday. With no rest day to recover, will her body let her down as she takes on Frech in Friday’s quarterfinals?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Halep vs Frech live

Prague Open matches including Halep vs Frech are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Halep vs Frech: Head-to-head

This will be the first meeting between Halep and Frech.

Magdalena Frech lost to Lesia Tsurenko in qualifying (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports)

Halep vs Frech: Preview

Halep’s first set at the Prague Open looked like the world no. 2 had barely missed a week, let alone six months, since winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships back in February. But everything since then has been a bit of a struggle.

Having squeaked past Polona Hercog, an admittedly tough veteran, in a third-set tie-break, Halep lost Wednesday’s doubles match with Barbora Strycova in a match tie-break, then dropped the first set to Barbora Krejcikova on Thursday. The Romanian was broken three times and served three double faults, winning just 10 of 25 points played on her serve, and although she broke Krejcikova back the first two times the Czech took the lead, once Krejcikova had held serve once the set was all but over.

Halep retrieved an early break in the second set, then found a sequence of aggressive points to lead 5-2 despite each game being close, but she couldn’t serve out the set and found herself having to break for it at 5-6. The Romanian had been feeling her shoulder, and she had an MTO for a neck issue before coming back from 0-2 down in the decider, reeling off six games to take the win 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.

The challenge of returning to competition after such a long time away from it was always going to be as much about the body adjusting back to match fitness as finding one’s game again, and Halep did talk about her back spasming after winning the first set against Hercog. But she is unlikely to want to take any chances, so it would not be a major surprise if she pulled out ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal against Frech.

Lucky loser French is into her very first WTA quarterfinal in Prague at the age of 22. The Pole hit her career-high ranking of world no. 115 in July 2018 but has yet to break into the top 100, dropping back to her current rank of world no. 175. A frequent sight in WTA Tour qualifying draws, Frech qualified for her first WTA Tour event of the season in Lyon in February. When the season restarted, she lost to Kaja Juvan in the first round of qualifying in Palermo, but got her revenge on Juvan in Prague qualifying only to lose to Lesia Tsurenko.

Wins over qualifier Elena Ruse and Arantxa Rus have put Frech into her first quarterfinal and given her the opportunity to face a top-10 player for the second time, having lost 2-6, 2-6 to Sloane Stephens at the French Open in 2018.

Frech should be able to get more than four games against Halep this time because of the Romanian’s questionable physical state. If Halep takes the court, she should win in straight sets – but it wouldn’t be surprising if she pulled out.

Halep vs Frech: Prediction

Halep 2-0

Simona Halep will attempt to continue shaking off the rust after a six-month hiatus as she faces Barbora Krejcikova in a bid to make the quarterfinals in Prague.

Simona Halep vs Barbora Krejcikova | WTA Prague R2 | 12/8/2020 2pm local/1pm BST

Halep vs Krejcikova
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Halep 2-1 3/1
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Halep vs Krejcikova is live from Prague on Thursday 13 August at 2pm local/1pm BST

World no. 2 Simona Halep narrowly survived her first match in six months when she edged past Polona Hercog in a third-set tie-break, extending her winning streak to five matches.

WTA Prague: Tournament information, schedules and live streams for the Prague Open

Halep continues her comeback to WTA Tour tennis as she takes on local favourite Barbora Krejcikova at the Prague Open on Thursday.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Halep vs Krejcikova live

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Halep vs Krejcikova: Head-to-head

Halep leads the head-to-head 1-0 after beating Krejcikova on clay in Bucharest in 2016 – but she had to come back from a set down to do so, winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Halep vs Krejcikova: Preview

Despite six months out of competition, not knowing when the sport would return, Halep picked up right where she left off when she played her first match since February at the Prague Open on Tuesday.

Her last match before the WTA Tour shut down due to the global health crisis was a victory over Elena Rybakina, sealed in a third-set tie-break, to claim the 20th WTA title of her career in Dubai; on Tuesday, a third-set tie-break was needed once again to separate the Romanian from her opponent.

Halep initially looked like she had never been away as she breezed through the first set against Polona Hercog 6-1, but lost the second set by the same scoreline and had to tough out a decider which lasted longer than the first two sets put together. Even the best players have to contend with ring-rust and lack of match fitness, and Halep’s was evident, not so much in being pushed hard by Hercog – all three of their previous meetings had gone to three sets – but in the way her energy level dropped after winning the first set, and most of all in the way that she first failed to serve out the match, then let six match points slide on Hercog’s serve at 4-5 and 5-6.

Hercog hit an ace on the first unconverted match point, but the remaining five were pretty much all unforced errors by Halep, and had Hercog not faltered in the tie-break – she had lost her last 21 matches against top-10 players, and it showed – Halep might not have got over the line.

Halep, Serena Williams win on return to WTA tennis

Barbora Krejcikova took a set from Halep in their only previous meeting (PA Images)

However, she did, and her winning streak is now at five matches with her last defeat coming in the Australian Open semifinals to Garbine Muguruza.

To make it six, Halep will have to get past wildcard Krejcikova, who recorded a surprisingly routine 6-4, 6-3 victory over Halep’s compatriot Patricia Maria Tig.

Four years younger than Halep, Krejcikova is something of a late bloomer and is the closest she has ever been to breaking into the top 100, reaching a career-high ranking of world no. 113 in February after qualifying for the Australian Open and reaching the second round. She recorded an excellent 2019 season, going 27-8 and winning four ITF titles, but played almost exclusively on clay.

Krejcikova’s career-best result came in Nurnberg in 2017 when she finished runner-up to Caroline Garcia at the WTA International after having come through qualifying. Since then, she has reached two WTA quarterfinals, both on clay.

It would be a mistake to completely discount Krejcikova, especially playing at home, and she did take a set from Halep in Bucharest in 2016 (Halep went on to win the tournament and double-bagelled Anastasija Sevastova in the final). Three of her five matches against top-20 players have gone the distance, and Halep is clearly rusty. The world no. 2 could well be pushed to three sets once more.

Halep vs Krejcikova: Prediction

Simona Halep vs Barbora Krejcikova | WTA Prague R2 | 12/8/2020 2pm local/1pm BST

Halep vs Krejcikova
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Halep 2-1 3/1
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Serena Williams and Simona Halep both made a winning return to competition on Tuesday despite being pushed to three sets.

WTA Tour events have been suspended since early March due to the global health crisis, and only resumed at last week’s Palermo Open before tournaments in Prague and Lexington, Kentucky began this week.

Top-10 players are now returning to competition for the first time in six months, with Serena Williams and Simona Halep headlining the draws at the inaugural Top Seed Open and the Prague Open respectively.

Both players got their first win since February on Tuesday – but neither of them found it straightforward.

Few players have more experience than Williams when it comes to returning from lengthy spells off court; the 38-year-old has had some extended breaks for injury and has played a limited schedule in recent years, especially since returning from maternity leave in 2018.

But the rust was clear in Lexington on Tuesday, especially in contrast to Williams’s opponent Bernarda Pera. The world no. 60 has been playing World Team Tennis exhibition matches during the lengthy ATP and WTA Tour shutdown, and for much of the first two sets she dominated Williams, keeping her pinned at the back of the court while the world no. 9 struggled vainly to keep her unforced errors under control.

WTA Lexington: Tournament information, latest news, schedules and live streams for Top Seed Open matches

Williams was on the brink of defeat when she trailed 0-40 on her serve at 4-6, 4-4, having failed to consolidate a hard-won break earlier in the set. But one game later, she broke Pera to send the match to a decider. Having taken a 3-1 lead, she saved break point to lead 4-1 and continued to read the Pera serve better and better as the match went on, breaking for 5-1 when Pera, rattled, netted a short forehand and serving out the win.

‘I haven’t played in so long. Even practice matches in training I haven’t played so it was good to go three sets and win a match,’ Williams said.

Williams’s reward will be a second-round clash with either sister Venus or two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.

Simona Halep celebrates victory over Polona Hercog in Prague on Tuesday (PA Images)

World no. 2 Halep, who had played only slightly more recently than Williams, also showed the effects of the lengthy absence from competition as she narrowly survived her first-round match in Prague.

Halep’s last match saw her defeat Elena Rybakina in a third-set tie-break to claim the 20th WTA singles title of her career at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships; 173 days later, she extended her winning streak to five matches, although she found herself dragged to a third-set tie-break once again.

WTA Prague tournament information, latest news, schedules and live streaming information

Facing Polona Hercog of Slovenia, a 29-year-old veteran who dragged Halep to a decider twice in 2019 and won their only previous clay-court battle, was never going to be easy. But Halep made it look like it was going to be just that as she breezed through the opening set 6-1 against a stiff Martic. ‘I had the touch and the feeling,’ she said afterwards.

Halep looked like she had never been away, but after she broke to open the second set, the match changed drastically. Halep’s forehand began to misfire and Hercog began to vary the play, and swiftly the Slovenian player ran off six games to level the match.

The third set was an extended tussle which lasted longer than the first two sets combined as the two slogged their way through extended rallies. Halep served for the match at 5-3 but was unable to close out the win – then had a total of six unconverted match points on Hercog’s serve at 4-5 and 5-6 before the third-set tie-break arrived. Hercog had an initial mini-break, but Halep remained tough and lifted her game to eventually secure the win on her seventh match point, 6-1, 1-6, 7-6(3).

Halep told the WTA:

‘I felt tension in my back after the first set, even though it was short and I played well. After the second set, I felt tired. But I knew she was in the same position so I just had to stick to the plan and fight – the fighting helped me to win the match.

‘Sometimes it’s good to call it a good match – but I don’t wish for the next one to play three hours!’

Halep now has a day off from singles, although she is due to play doubles with Barbora Strycova, before facing Barbora Krejcikova, the world no. 118, in the second round on Thursday. They have played once before, with Halep coming back from a set down to beat Krejcikova on clay in Bucharest in 2016.

World no. 2 Simona Halep plays her first match since February at the Prague Open on Tuesday, against an opponent who’s always been tough for her.

Simona Halep vs Polona Hercog | WTA Prague Open R1 | Tuesday 11 August

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Halep 2-1 3/1
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Halep vs Hercog is live from Prague on Tuesday 11 August at 1pm local/12pm BST

The second week of the restarted WTA Tour sees top-10 players beginning to return to competition at the tournaments in Prague and Lexington. World no. 2 Halep, denied the opportunity to defend her Wimbledon title by the tournament’s cancellation, leads the field at the Prague Open and will be playing her first match since winning Dubai in February.

Prague Open tournament information, schedules, live streaming and latest news

With Halep’s plans to warm up with a doubles match on Monday scuppered by rain in Prague, the Romanian could be in for a tough time against Polona Hercog, who won their only previous clay-court meeting and took sets from Halep both times they met in 2019.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Halep vs Hercog live

Prague Open matches including Simona Halep vs Polona Hercog are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Head-to-head: Halep vs Hercog

Halep leads the head-to-head with Hercog 2-1, but all three matches have gone the distance.

Hercog’s solitary win was also their only match on clay – but it came back in 2009 when Halep was ranked outside the top 200, Hercog inside the top 100.

The pair played twice in 2019 with Halep winning both encounters, but on both occasions Hercog took a set. Their Miami encounter last March was particularly close, with Hercog a tie-break away from victory, only for Halep to dominate the breaker allowing the Slovenian just one point and going on to win 5-7, 7-6(1), 6-2.

Polona Hercog has lost her last 21 matches vs top-10 players (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Halep vs Hercog: Preview

The unknowns are immense as WTA Tour players return to action from lay-offs which have lasted the best part of six months.

Halep’s last match was in mid-February when she defeated Elena Rybakina in a third-set tie-break to claim the 20th WTA title of her career at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, crowning a very strong start to the year which saw her go 10-2 and reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. But the Romanian was already headed for a break due to a foot injury causing her pain in Dubai when the suspension hit, and she hasn’t played exhibition tennis at all during the past few months – nor over-burdened herself with practicing and training.

This might turn out to have been an extremely good thing for Halep, allowing her to return physically and emotionally refreshed, but for a player who tends to need a lot of matches to find her best tennis, it leaves her vulnerable in these early matches.

Halep was planning to play doubles with Barbora Strycova to get in a little match time before starting her singles campaign, but rain on Monday washed out many matches in Prague including theirs and the top seed finds herself coming in to face Polona Hercog completely cold.

Hercog is also playing for the first time since February when she lost to Alison van Uytvanck in the first round of Doha. The Slovenian missed the best part of a year to injury in 2016-17 and has been rebuilding over the past few seasons. Her 2019 season was one of the best of her career: She claimed her first title since 2012 on clay in Lugano and ousted seeds at the French Open and Wimbledon, coming close to making the last 16 at the latter before narrowly losing to Coco Gauff.

Hercog last beat a top-10 player in 2012 and is on a 21-match losing streak against them, but she took sets from top-10 players on five occasions in 2020, including both times she played Halep; she was very close to beating Halep in Miami last March. Halep needs her forehand firing to be able to beat Hercog, but that’s precisely the part of her game that tends to be most erratic when she’s not match fit. In heavy, damp conditions in Prague, with both players so rusty, anything could happen but all three meetings between them have gone to the distance and this one should too,

Prediction

Halep 2-1 Hercog

Simona Halep vs Polona Hercog | WTA Prague Open R1 | Tuesday 11 August

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