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Top seed Halep digs deep against impressive Kenin to advance

The Romanian has struggled for form and fitness since her first-round defeat at the US Open last August and came into the year’s first Grand Slam short of preparation after a back injury ended her 2018 season prematurely.

Simona Halep. Picture: @AustralianOpen/Twitter.

MELBOURNE - Top seed Simona Halep staved off a spirited challenge from American youngster Sofia Kenin to prevail 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 in the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday and set up a showdown with former world number one Venus Williams next.

The Romanian has struggled for form and fitness since her first-round defeat at the US Open last August and came into the year’s first Grand Slam short of preparation after a back injury ended her 2018 season prematurely.

She broke the 20-year-old Kenin twice in the first set but the American fought back in the second set from 3-0 down to level it at 1-1 in the tiebreaker.

Halep then got the crucial break in the third set to go up 5-4 and converted her second match point for the victory in two hours and 31 minutes.

Halep, who was on a five-match losing streak before the Australian Open, set up a third-round meeting against multiple Grand Slam winner Williams, who beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-3 4-6 6-0.

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