World no. 2 Simona Halep plays her first match since February at the Prague Open on Tuesday, against an opponent…
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.
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.
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
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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.
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,
Halep 2-1 Hercog