World No 1 Simona Halep comes through epic battle with Sofia Kenin to reach Australian Open round three
- Simona Halep looked on course for victory when she went a set and break up
- World No 1 won the first set 6-3 and raced into 3-0 lead only to be pegged back
- Sofia Kenin fought back to win the second set on a tiebreak and lead in set three
- But Halep came from a break down to secure the deciding set 6-4 on Thursday
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 No 1 Venus Williams next.
The Romanian has struggled for form and fitness since her first-round defeat at the US Open last August.
The world No 1 came into the year’s first Grand Slam short of preparation after a back injury ended her 2018 season prematurely.
World No 1 Simona Halep came from a break down in the deciding set to beat Sofia Kenin
Romania’s Halep stretches to make a forehand during the second-round tie on Thursday
American Kenin, only 20, battled hard in Melbourne and forced the match into a deciding set
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.
‘Well, I have no idea how I won this tonight,’ said Halep, the reigning French Open champion. ‘It’s so tough to explain what happened on court.’
‘Hopefully,’ said Halep. ‘Next round I play better.’
Halep, here clenching her first, looked set for a straight-sets win only to be pegged back
Kenin fought back from 3-0 down in the second set to level the match and force a decider
Halep shows her frustration as her hopes of glory looked to be slipping away on Thursday