In a match that felt like it would never end, Simona Halep defeated Kristina Mladenovic in Cincy, 7-5 5-7 6-4, having failed to convert on match points in the second set. Halep came into Cincy off the back of a gruelling run in Toronto where she was forced to withdraw in the third set of the final against Belinda Bencic. Considering that was only three days ago, this was a good win for Halep who beat Mladenovic for the first time in her career. Performance wise, it was very shaky from both! Halep was always ahead but took the scenic route. Halep ran away with the last two games of a tight opening set to win it, 7-5. Mladenovic seemed to lose her focus after falling over in the game at 5-5.
Mladenovic was pretty wild for much of this match making a ton of errors (59 unforced errors compared to Halep’s 33). Her serve never got going (49% first serves in the first set) and she was forced to rely on the second serve far too much. Mladenovic has got all the shots in the locker but she’s still not quite there in choosing the right one for the occasion! Mladenovic kept going for the drop shot option, which only worked half of the time, if that. Halep was not particularly impressive but she kept the ball in court more than Mladenovic did.
To her credit, Mladenovic showed some character to fight back. Mladenovic saved two match points, one with a thumping winner down-the-line serving at *3-5 and another one when Halep served for the set at *5-4. The Romanian player was noticeably edgy, overpushing to try and get the job done quickly and making the error. Mladenovic upped her intensity and surprisingly, took the second set.
Mladenovic killed her momentum a little going off at the end of the set as Halep got the early break in the decider. Mladenovic recovered it but as was typical of her form in this match, she never found a solid rhythm for more than a couple of games. Mladenovic was troubled by a leg injury at the end of the match and required the trainer once more just before Halep served for the match again. The world number three was not phased by the delay and this time, served it out to claim a gritty win in two hours and 50 minutes.
The best moment of the match was when Mladenovic was trying to hold onto her serve at *3-5 in the second set… she screamed with joy after she thought she had served an ace only to be told by the umpire, Felix Torralba that he had called a let. WTA Reactions were on hand to GIF the moment. I love moments like this 🙂
Halep will play Andrea Petkovic or Camila Giorgi in the third round. Petkovic hurt her knee in her first round match against Julia Goerges but still won comfortably in straight sets. There was a picture on Twitter that seemed to show her practising with no strapping yesterday. Credit to Halep for showing up in Cincy and battling hard, but it will take a really huge effort for her to back this one up with another win on Thursday.