Simona Halep survived a scare in the first round of French Open 2018 as she came from a set down to beat Alison Riske 2-6 6-1 6-1.
The two-time finalist, 26, has had a good clay court season so far as she has reached one final and two quarter-finals. And she is hoping to win her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros this fortnight.
Halep made a very poor start. She lost the first five games because she tried to match Riske’s power from the back of the court and came off second best.
The Romanian won her first game just in time to avoid a first-set bagel as she finally began to move Riske around by hitting groundstrokes into other parts of the court. She then used more of her varieties to earn her first break of the match and reduce the deficit to 5-2.
Riske broke Halep for a third time to clinch the first set. However, she showed some nerves as she dropped her serve to love in the first game of the second set.
Halep turns the tide
After that, the World No.1 took control. In the first set, Riske hit 13 winners and coped with everything Halep threw at her.
But now the Romanian had the measure of the American. She totally dominated the first five games of the second set as she won 16 points and lost just four. It was classic Halep play too, as she found great angles to create opportunities to hit clinical winners.
Riske showed some spirit to break the World No.1 in game six, but it was only a temporary blip for Halep as she wrapped up the set by breaking the American’s serve for the fifth time in succession.
The Romanian’s charge continued in the decider as she played a succession of high-class points to go 3-0 up.
Riske stopped the rot by holding her serve for the first time since game five in the opening set. But it only delayed the inevitable, as Halep raced through the last three games to seal an encouraging win.
Due to the rain delays on day three, this was the Romanian’s first match of the tournament. She will play Taylor Townsend in round two after the American beat Myrtille Georges 6-4 6-2.
Svitolina and Kvitova march onEmbed from Getty Images
All the other women who were scheduled first on their assigned courts were contesting round two matches.
Elina Svitolina, one of Halep’s main rivals for the title, eased past Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3 6-4, while another major contender, Petra Kvitova, demolished Lara Arruabarrena 6-0 6-4 in just 68 minutes.
Rising star Naomi Osaka overcame Zarina Diyas 6-4 7-5, 25th seed Anett Kontaveit took out Alexandra Dulgheru 7-5 6-2 and 26th seed Barbora Strycova comfortably beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-2.
[Originally published on ubitennis.com]