World No.1 Simona Halep was given all she could handle by 17-year-old wildcard Destanee Aiava in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, but the Romanian rallied from a first-set hole for a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
The win for Halep snapped a three-match losing streak for the Romanian at the Australian Open, as she had been upset at the first hurdle by Shelby Rogers and Zhang Shuai in each of her past two trips, wtatennis.com informs.
However, she nearly lost her seventh straight set at the tournament as the World No.193 built a 5-2 lead in the first set with booming groundstrokes from the back of the court.
The top seed saved a pair of set points in the eighth game of the opener, which kicked off a run of three straight games which saw her draw level. As the set wound through to its conclusion in a tiebreak, the teenager drew first blood with the first mini-break, but the World No.1 rebounded to win six of the last eight points to get out of danger.
Halep also had to handle more drama in the second set, however, as the top seed rolled her left ankle in the second game, needing a mid-match medical timeout.
Nonetheless, she battled through, broke serve upon resumption, and held on to her advantage for the duration of the match.
Playing her first Grand Slam match as World No.1, Halep avoided the dubious distinction of becoming the first women’s top seed to lose her opening round at the Australian Open since her compatriot Virginia Ruzici in 1979 – who was ironically defeated by an Australian in Mary Sawyer.
In the next round, Halep will face Eugenie Bouchard (Canada, 23, 112th WTA), who defeated Oceane Dodin (France) 6-3, 7-6 (5). Halep leads in direct matches 2-1.
In an earlier match, Sorana Cirstea (27, 36th WTA) has qualified to the second round, after defeating Zarina Dias (Kazakhstan, 24, 60th WTA) 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.Cirstea will face in the next round Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic), who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (Australia) 7-5, 6-3.
Also on Tuesday, Romanian tennis player Ana Bogdan (104th WTA) has surprisingly defeated Kristina Mladenovici (France, 11th WTA) 6-3, 6-2.
For qualifying to the second round, the tennis players will collect 70 WTA points and AUD 80,000.