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Tennis: Simona Halep loses her first match in 2019. Irina Begu through to quarter-finals in Hobart

Ashleigh Barty’s surging career hit a new high at the Sydney International, where she shocked reigning Roland Garros champion Simona Halep, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday, for her first win over a reigning World No.1.

Barty ended a breakthrough season with the biggest title of her career at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai and took that momentum into 2019 with back-to-back wins over the last two French Open winners: first Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round, now Halep after one hour and 27 minutes on court, wtatennis.com informs.

The 22-year-old drew first blood in the opening set, and though Halep – who was playing her first match of the year – swiftly leveled proceedings at 3-3, Barty had an extra gear on most every key point, breaking serve once more to take the opening set.

Halep elected to begin 2019 without a coach, and tried to dig into the fighting spirit that helped her finish atop the WTA rankings for a second straight year.

The Romanian was first to break in the second set with a chance to hold for 5-3, but Barty was undaunted, using her signature court craft to break straight back and secure victory two games later.

In all, it was a much more aggressive match from Barty, who struck 26 winners to Halep’s nine; while the top seed can typically rely on her consistency, windy conditions likely contributed to the 22 unforced errors she hit over two sets. Halep will also rue her 2/11 break point conversion rate; Barty, conversely, converted four of seven break point opportunities.

Irina Begu qualifies to quarter-finals in Hobart

Romanian tennis player Irina Begu, 76th WTA, has qualified on Wednesday to the quarter-finals of the WTA International tournament in Hobart, after defeating 4-6, 6-7 (2), 6-2 Anna Blinkova (Russia, 96th WTA).

Begu came back from 4-6, 2-5 to win the match in two hours and 37 minutes.

In the next round Begu will face Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Slovakia, 51st WTA).

For the performance so far, Begu will collect USD 6,175 and 60 WTA points.

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