Simona Halep, making her first appearance on court since the China Open last September, has been beaten by Ashleigh Barty in the second round of the Sydney International, seriously hampering her preparations for the first major at Melbourne which starts on Monday.
The biggest thing, I believed that I could I win. We’re both out here on the same court. Just very happy I was able to come out and execute Ashleigh Barty
Playing without a coach having broken her working arrangements with Darren Cahill, she lost 6-4 6-4 to the in-form Bart who had a successful run at last week’s Hopman Cup.
The Romanian world number one was broken four times as she hit 22 unforced errors to nine winners.
“I think it was a great match after almost four months since I played one full match, US Open. I think I played a good level of tennis. I had no inspiration in some important points,” Halep said later.
“She played really well. Her slice was great today, so she deserved to win this match.
“But also I was very close to winning. I had so many chances to break her and to take advantage, but I couldn’t. I can feel that I don’t have the rhythm yet.”
The past few months have been unsettling for the Romanian, who ended her 2018 season early due to a back injury deciding instead to take a longer off-season break.
“I took a longer break because I needed it. Also mentally, also physically” she revealed, adding: “So I have no expectations (in Melbourne). That’s what I always say because I cannot expect myself to be at the highest level in this moment, because I didn’t play matches.
“But tennis is good, so I have just to believe in myself more.”
Meanwhile Barty has a good chance to become the first Australian woman to win the Sydney title since Alicia Molik in 2005. In the quarter-finals she will play either Elise Mertens or Anett Kontaveit.
“I finally learnt my lesson,” Barty said. “She gave me a belting in Montreal. I learnt a little bit more in Cincinnati, but today I knuckled down and really thought about it and really gave myself a chance.
“The biggest thing, I believed that I could I win. We’re both out here on the same court. Just very happy I was able to come out and execute.
“I felt like it was really clean, considering the conditions. It was very swirly down at court level so I figure if I’m going to play ‘Sim’ at any time, it’s her first match and in conditions like this.
“So I was very happy I was able to make the most of it. Yeah, extremely pleased.”