Tennis

Simona Halep suffers another early U.S. Open exit

Simona Halep, left, of Romania, congratulates Taylor Townsend, of the United States, after Townsend won their second round match of the US Open tennis championships Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in New York.

Simona Halep, left, of Romania, congratulates Taylor Townsend, of the United States, after Townsend won their second round match of the US Open tennis championships Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in New York.   | Photo Credit: AP

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While the second-round match between Simona Halep and qualifier Taylor Townsend had no shortage of surprises and thrills, the outcome was all too familiar for the Romanian fourth seed — heartbreak, once again, at the U.S. Open.

Coming fresh off her second Grand Slam triumph at Wimbledon last month, Halep appeared to be a genuine threat in a crowded field of female talent at Flushing Meadows this year.

But the 27-year-old was sent packing in by unheralded serve-and-volley specialist Townsend on Thursday to leave her record at the tournament a miserable one win in three years.

Halep, who fell in the first round here in the last two years, managed to fight off a pair of match points in the 10th game of the decider but Townsend's aggressive play at the net carried her home.

“I feel like a lot of the times when I was playing her, I played, like, not to lose. A player like that, she's just way too solid, has had so much experience, that's not going to fly,” Townsend said after her 2-6 6-3 7-6(4) victory.

“I was just, like, 'what do you have to lose?' I'm just going to go for it, I'm going to do what I do best where I'm the most comfortable, which is at the net.”

Townsend made a second home at the net, which she approached a staggering 106 times during the match to come away with 64 of those points.

Halep, who arrived at Flushing Meadows looking to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2012 to follow a Wimbledon win with a U.S. Open triumph, grew more frustrated as she was unable to come up with the necessary passing shots.

“It was a little bit weird because never happens on tour, to have an opponent that is coming for actually every ball to the net,” said Halep, who has not reached the third round in New York since 2016.

“I tried to play body, I tried to play on the sides. I made also some mistakes.

“Also I didn't go through the court that well. I was waiting behind. Sometimes I thought that she's going to hit strong, but was little bit softer. So I didn't have the rhythm.”

Halep managed to break Townsend and force a tiebreaker but the 23-year-old American held steady and sealed the deal on her third match point when the Romanian sent a backhand into the net.

Townsend said her decision to dedicate herself to play at the net against was not a last-minute adjustment to her gameplan but rather something she has always done.

“I always enjoyed coming to the net,” said Townsend. “It's always a fine line, especially as you move up and through the levels, that you have to kind of hone in and have things that you do well.

“You have strengths, but you have to be solid from a certain point because these players are just too good. The level only gets higher.

“I think it was really great confirmation that this style of play works, that I can continue to do it.”

Asked after the match how she was feeling about her early departure, Halep replied that she was “used to it”.

“It’s (the) third year,” said Halep. “Well, I’m disappointed. I had expectations from myself that I’m confident and I feel the game. But today was different. I was very close. I had match (point). But, you know, sometimes (it) happens.”

It has not always been that way for Halep in New York, where she was a semi-finalist in 2015 and reached the last eight the following year.

Her run of bad form started in 2017 when she drew former would number one Maria Sharapova, fresh off a 15-month doping ban, and was a 6-4 4-6 6-3 loser in the first round.

Halep entered the 2018 edition of the tournament as the top seed, riding high after her maiden Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros, only to crash out again at the first hurdle with a loss in straight sets to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.

The world number four, who pulled out of the Rogers Cup last month with an Achilles issue, said she would take the defeat in her stride.

“I have just to look forwards,” she said. “I’m Wimbledon champion, so I will not ruin that.”

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 1:01:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/simona-halep-suffers-another-early-us-open-exit/article29296676.ece

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