PARIS (Reuters) - Simona Halep’s focus was still not as sharp as she would have liked but that did not prevent the Romanian top seed from blazing past American Taylor Townsend 6-3 6-1 in the French Open second round on Thursday.
A day after losing the first five games of her first-round match, Halep squandered a 5-1 lead as Townsend came from 0-40 down to save three set points with two unreturnable serves and a bludgeoning backhand volley winner.
After bagging that game with an ace, the 72nd-ranked American wildcard saved another set point in the next game before breaking the twice French Open finalist, who slapped a backhand into the net.
No doubt frustrated at her inability to close out the set, Halep started grunting every time she struck the ball and that change of tack appeared to produce the desired result as she broke to win the set on her fifth set point when she ended a 16-stroke rally with a sizzling forehand winner.
Townsend had lost all five previous matches against top-10 opponents and once Halep broke to take a 3-1 lead in the second set, that losing streak was doomed to continue.
The American, who has never won a Grand Slam match outside Roland Garros, dropped her serve again to trail 5-1 and Halep swiftly put her out of her misery by needing only one match point to book a third-round meeting with Andrea Petkovic.
“It was a tough match as her left-handed topspin is hard to handle,” Halep said about an opponent who once used to be a right-hander but switched over to being a lefty.
“I was in a little bit of trouble in the beginning because I could not find my rhythm so I am glad to finish this in two sets,” she added. “It was a tough match.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond