By Ros Satar, in Madrid
- Simona Halep  def. Roberta Vinci 6-3 2-6 7-6(2)
- Faces Sam Stosur next
- Halep leads 5-4, but Stosur leads 3-1 on the clay.
MADRID, SPAIN – Defending champion Simona Halep scrambled into the third round after a titanic battle with Roberta Vinci at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Simona Halep  def. Roberta Vinci 6-3 2-6 7-6(2)
If ever we needed to see the proof of a change in Simona Halep’s attitude after her Miami meltdown made her feel ‘ashamed,’ it was this match. After the pair tested the waters with breakpoint chances in the first three games, before Roberta Vinci made the first strike.
Halep hit straight back and kept her nerve to serve to love before breaking the Italian and delivering another love service game. So far things looked routine.
The second set started very competitively – and once more it was Vinci who took the initiative with the first break of the second set. It was the first real wobble we had seen in Halep since losing to Britain’s Johanna Konta in Miami. Vinci consolidated and finally squeaked out the second set to level on her third attempt.
For the third time, the initial advantage went the Italian’s way as she swiftly built up a 4-1 lead. Darren Cahill’s advice at least seemed to be taken in and even though Halep had been largely passive in the coaching time out, it felt a lot less negative than we had seen previously.
Whatever he said started to register, as Halep reeled Vinci in, forcing a tie-break, where she made no mistake – dominating from the off to close out a lucky escape and a third round encounter with Sam Stosur.
She told reporters after the match: “Her game is not easy to play. Her slices are very difficult to return. She was hitting pretty strong also with the forehand today, serve, everything. She played unbelievable.
“Yeah, I was close to lose the match. But I stayed strong. I stayed focused. I didn’t give up. That makes this match much more like bigger for me. It means a lot.”
It was a tough admission in Stuttgart to tell reporters that she had felt ashamed of her behaviour when she had looked back at the coaching changeover with Cahill in Miami. Without him by her side in Stuttgart she reached the semi-final, and comeback from 1-4 down showed that she had taken on board what he had been saying, tapping the Vinci backhand more and reaping the rewards.
She explained: “I think today I was very good, maybe the best way that I’ve been this year so far. I try just to stay positive, even if I was down, like 5-2 also in the third set. I was close to lose it.
“It’s tough to stay positive when you are 5-2 down. But still I tried just to play every ball and not thinking about the score.
“It was good this time. I don’t want to repeat it. But it was a good match, strong mentally for me. I’ve been strong till the end. That gives me more confidence that I’m strong mentally. Even if I have sometimes downs, I also hit the racquet a little bit today (smiling), but was a positive thing. It’s okay. I will not be quiet (smiling) but I will be more positive.”
Halep v Samantha Stosur – H2H: Halep leads 5-4
This could well be another tricky one for Halep. Although she has a slim lead in their head to head, Samantha Stosur has the edge on the clay, 3-1.
That being said, Halep picked up the win on her way to the title last year, even if Stosur beat her just a few weeks later at the French Open. The last encounter however went the way ot the Romanian in Miami.
She said: “For sure it’s going to be a tough match. I played against her last time in Miami, I think. Yeah, I was close to lose, as well. Last year I played a good match against her here. I have confidence about that. But, like I say always, it’s going to be a different match. I’m just going there to do my job, to do my game. I will try to be aggressive, to avoid her topspin forehand (smiling).”
It’s a tricky match up for both, and this is the best run so far on clay this year for the Aussie, so it will be another test of Halep’s new and improved attitude as she continues to figure out how to solve the puzzle of her own mind out there as she continues her title defence.
Halep and Stosur are scheduled on Estadio 3, not before 3:30pm (2:30pm BST).
Featured Image Credit: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
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