By Ros Satar

  • Elise Mertens [16] def. Heather Watson 6-3, 6-0
  • Simona Halep [4] def. Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-4
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – And then there were none as the last singles players – Heather Watson and Harriet Dart – bowed out in the second round.

 

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Elise Mertens [16] def. Heather Watson 6-3, 6-0

After such a spirited fightback in the first round match, there were high hopes that Heather Watson would be able to lift her game and deliver another winning performance against Elise Mertens for the second time in as many weeks.

READ MORE | Tennis | WTA Hobart 2020 | Watson downs Mertens to reach semi-final

The match-flow was familiar – Mertens struck with an immediate break, and Watson kept her composure to break straight back, but Mertens looked to be a lot steadier in yet another day of scheduling chaos.

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Dust and rain had left a lot of the outdoor courts with a red film that had to be pressure jetted off, and Watson’s match which had originally been scheduled for about 12:30pm (1:30am) was over four hours late in getting to the court.

In what looked like a hybrid hard/clay court, Watson was patient but could not quite get going against Mertens who wrapped up the first set in half an hour. That is not to say that Watson had no chances in the second set. Two break points went begging after she was broken at the start and this time she could not convert, with Mertens breaking twice with ease.

Watson, whose run to the Hobart semi-final saw her re-enter the Top 100, is likely to be pivotal to the GB Fed Cup team, admitted that she had not been happy with her level.

As reported by BBC Sport,  she said: “I felt like my level wasn’t there, my movement felt like I was a millimetre or a second too slow and I was letting her dictate. As the match went on I thought she played better and was more aggressive. I was not happy with my performance at all.

“My level was a lot lower than Hobart and her level was higher, but because my level was lower I allowed her to step up and play a lot better. She is ranked where she is for a reason and I had to play a lot better than I did to have a chance.”

 

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Simona Halep [4] def. Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-4

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A year ago, Harriet Dart fought her way through qualifying only to be dished out a hard lesson by idol Maria Sharapova without even a game to show for it. This time, under the night lights, it was an equally tall order against the No. 3 seed and former finalist Simona Halep, but she had more than enough chances to give the reigning Wimbledon champion moments of pause.

Despite being broken in the first game, Dart fought straight back to break, but Halep’s determination to run everything down meant the Brit had to work so hard to even get points on the board as Halep dished out a third straight break.

Even as Halep was serving out the first set, Dart forced her to save a break point before the set was gone. The second set started as ominously with two straight breaks from Halep as she leapt out to a 4-0 lead with Dart fighting at every turn.

As Halep stepped up to serve for the match, Dart saved a match-point and broke the former World No. 1 and backed it up with a hold for three games in a row. Dart was not done, saving two more match points before finally a relieved Halep got over the line.

In her on-court interview, Halep acknowledged Dart’s upturn in spirit at the end, saying: “It was a bit dangerous because I lost focus in the end. She started to play well in the end so it was more difficult for me to hold it.

“I like to play under pressure. It’s more fun and more excitement, but I’d prefer to finish the match more quickly.”

There are no British women in the doubles tournament, but there is still plenty to look forward to in the men’s doubles with Joe Salisbury (and partner Rajeev Ram) seeded 11th and the partnership of Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski seeded 14th.

Play will continue in the third round from 11am (Midnight GMT).

READ MORE | Australian Open 2020 Prize Money | How much will the Brits earn at the Australian Open

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