Former major champs Halep, Azarenka to meet in Wimbledon third round

Former major champs Halep, Azarenka to meet in Wimbledon third round

Both advanced in second-round action Wednesday, but in completely different fashion.

Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka both won their second-round matches on Wednesday to set up a mouthwatering third-round encounter between former No. 1s at Wimbledon.

Azarenka was the first of the two to win through, losing the first two games of her match against Ajla Tomljanovic before winning 12 games in a row to breeze past the Australian in 63 minutes, 6-2, 6-0.

The two-time Australian Open champion is now through to the third round of a major for the first time this year, having fallen in the first round at the Australian Open and second round of Roland Garros.

Halep followed Azarenka later in the day, battling past countrywoman Mihaela Buzarnescu in three sets on Court 2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. The No. 7-seeded Halep looked headed for a routine straight-sets victory as she built a 6-3, 2-0 lead, even going up 40-15 in that game.

But Buzarnescu didn’t just break back, she won six of the next eight games to take the second set—and after falling behind 3-0 in the third, she got back on serve once again. Halep had one final push left, winning the last three games to close it out after an hour and 51 minutes, ripping one last forehand passing shot winner past her fellow Romanian on match point.

 

“I think I’m playing okay,” Halep told WTATour.com. “It’s always tough on grass, but it was a tougher match than the first one, so it was good that I could win it. Also I had tough moments during this match. I lost the second set when I was leading—then I just had to fight until the end and for every ball, which I’m really happy that I did. I felt confident on the court. I also felt strong mentally.”

Halep and Azarenka will now both have an opportunity to return to the second week of Wimbledon for the first time since 2017. Azarenka lost in the second round last year to Karolina Pliskova, while Halep was ousted in the third round by Hsieh Su-Wei. They’re both former semifinalists here, with Azarenka reaching the semifinals in 2011 and 2012 and Halep getting to the final four in 2014.

The pair of past major champions have split their four prior meetings. Azarenka won their first two at Doha and Linz in 2012 while Halep took the next two in the 2015 US Open quarterfinals and fourth round of Wimbledon two years ago in their only previous grass-court encounter.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for me, a tough one, because she’s playing not very flat, but she’s very aggressive. So on grass it’s not that easy,” Halep said of the looming clash with Azarenka.

“I am confident I have my chance. I want to win badly every match I play.”