By Ros Satar at the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China
- Simona Halep  def. Bianca Andreescu  3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3
SHENZHEN, CHINA – Simona Halep resumes her winning ways at the WTA Finals after a gruelling three-set battle against Bianca Andreescu.
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Having advised a young Bianca Andreescu to leave the junior circuit and join tour, Simona Halep faced the latest Slam winner on the block in a hard-hitting encounter as the Purple group closed out their first round-robin matches.
Andreescu struck first with an early break only to be pegged right back, as if to be reminded that she is still a relative newbie on the block, before Halep had to fight off another three break points. Andreescu relentlessly kept up the pressure breaking Halep twice more in succession to take the first set.
There was a little more grit to the Halep game, and with Darren Cahill back with his on-court coaching duties, she came out on top of a flurry of three breaks in a row, but perhaps lost a little of that momentum for a physio time-out to mop up a cut that Andreescu sustained on her leg, getting broken back, and then having to save a match-point on the way to forcing a second set tie-break.
If the momentum had been shifting during the second set, the tie-break was just as tight, with Halep watching her first two set points drift away but with a couple of wayward errors from Andreescu as the going got tough, with the third set point getting the job done to level the match.
After a couple of medical timeouts each, again it was Andreescu to strike first, with Halep bringing her back to level terms and some more coaching advice from Cahill along the way. Andreescu was beginning to show a lot more physical fatigue and looked to be struggling more and more with her back, as Halep broke for a 4-2 lead.
Andreescu was stepping the aggression and purposefully looking to keep the points shorter to get things back on serve. Halep, sensing blood broke for a lead, then proceeding to run the ailing Canadian from side to side. From having been down match point, it was a monumental effort to close it out on the first one of her own.
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Halep: ‘Stronger mentally’
Although much has been made of the chat about quitting juniors, Andreescu still learned a valuable lesson today at the hands of a player 10 years her senior.
Andreescu said: “I think I was executing the right tactics. My serve. My return was good today, for most of the match at least. I didn’t feel intimidated at all stepping on the court.
“I know I looked up to her a lot, so being able to play her was really fun. Yeah, maybe I’ll get to play her again here, get my revenge.”
However, with the benefit of experience, Halep gritted out a tough win, and puts herself in a decent position when she goes on to face Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.
She said: “I had a thought that I’m stronger mentally. We had some long rallies, and I won those balls. Then I just didn’t think about the result. I’ve been focused on myself. I just had in my head what I have to play against her to be good. I did it. It was a really good match.”
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