Halep hails the 'new Simona'

Last Updated 20 January 2018, 12:22 IST

The Australian Open top seed hailed the "new Simona" Halep after saving three match points for the first time in her career to survive an epic 15-13 in the third set Saturday.

Courageous unseeded American Lauren Davis lost a middle toenail on her left foot and had to be treated twice by the physio as she threw everything at Halep in a third set that alone lasted two hours and 22 minutes.

The Romanian eventually won the marathon third-round clash 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 in three hours and 44 minutes after three times stumbling when serving for the match.

And she credited a new-found calmness for getting her through the toughest test of her career at 10-11, 0-40 in the third set.

"I'm just trying to change myself to not think that much about the points," said Halep.

"It's really tough when the opponent has a match point," adding that her reputation for losing her temper and folding in pressure moments of important matches was a thing of the past.

"If we compare the old Simona with the new Simona... I was a little bit stronger in that moment, for sure," said the world number one.

"You just go there and hit like without thinking. I did that, and I think she was a little bit tired at that moment. The pressure was on, also, and I was a little bit stronger in that moment, for sure."

Halep, suffering from ankle problems, came under constant pressure as the world number 75 hit 52 winners to all parts of the court.

But when she finally managed to serve out at the fourth time of asking it brought a standing ovation from Rod Laver Arena.

"I never played a third set so long. I'm almost dead," said the Romanian after finally edging across the finish line. "My muscles are gone. I don't feel my ankle any more."

Halep nows plays either 18th seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia or Japan's Naomi Osaka in the last 16 after the longest match of the women's tournament so far.

It eclipsed the three hours and one minute that fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu took to defeat Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 in the first round on Monday.

But it was an hour short of the 2011 Australian Open record when Francesca Schiavone of Italy beat Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in four hours and 44 minutes.

Halep said that she now had nothing to lose for the rest of the tournament because "honestly, I thought it's over at that moment (three match points down). But it was good because I relaxed my arm and I served pretty well those three points.

"Doesn't matter what is going to happen now," said Halep. "I say that it's a big win in many ways, and I take it."

(Published 20 January 2018, 11:48 IST)

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