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WATCH: Swiatek visited the Tennis Channel Live Desk following her gutsy opening round win.

Blustery conditions continued to wreak havoc on the BNP Paribas Open’s early rounds as Day 3 began with a pair of three-setters across Courts 2 and 3. Though the wind sought to twist the top seeds’ trajectories, Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek nonetheless advanced through tricky contests to survive Ekaterina Alexandrova and Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, respectively.

An Indian Wells champion in 2015, Halep was the first of the pair to advance, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, edging ahead to a 3-2 head-to-head against Alexandrova, who won their most recent hard-court clash last February.

“Before the match, I saw our head-to-head was 2-2,” the former world No. 1 noted on court after the match. “I remember the matches against her are never easy because she plays flat and strong. I just talked a little bit about the match before the match, and I’m happy that I could win.”

Halep began 2022 with a clear aim to rebuild her ranking after injuries forced her to miss half of last season’s major tournaments—including Wimbledon, where she was the defending champion—and though she began the year with a 23rd career title in Melbourne, the 30-year-old split with coaches Daniel Dobre and Adrian Marcu after an Australian Open exit to Alizé Cornet.

After a coachless Middle Eastern campaign saw mixed results—a semifinal finish in Dubai but a first-round loss in Doha—Halep prepared for the Sunshine Swing at the Patrick Mourataglou Academy, and arrived at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with Morgan Bourbon, one of the Academy’s coaches.

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Blessed with an early start, Halep rode the momentum from a morning practice against Alexandrova, racing ahead 5-1 before serving out the opening set to love.

“I’m a morning person. I like to play when the sun is shining, so it was a good schedule; thank you to the tournament!” Halep said with a laugh.

Looking to beat a Top 30 player for only a second time in 2022, Alexandrova reigned in her power plays through a tense second set, breaking Halep at love to force a deciding set. Undaunted, Halep took another double-break lead and shook off a late break as a wayward return put her over the finish line after an hour and 47 minutes on court.

“I think I did what I had to do. I’m just looking forward to the next one to play a little bit better.”

Basking in the heavy crowd support, Halep may a face a more even reception next as she prepares to play one of two Americans: Coco Gauff or Claire Liu. Gauff and Halep last played at the former’s breakthrough Wimbledon, which the latter went on to win in 2019.

“I’m not that much into watching, but I probably will a little bit. I have one day off, so tomorrow I will focus on what I have to do for the next match. Today I will enjoy the victory; it’s important!”

Swiatek expressed similar relief after recalibrating from an uneven first set, roaring into the third round, 5-7, 6-0, 6-1.

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“I think at the beginning, I was too focused on the conditions,” Swiatek breezily explained after the match. “I was a little bit distracted by what’s going on with the wind and the ball change when it happens can be pretty weird: the difference between new and old ones is huge. I had to find my rhythm and for sure, in the second set, I did that.

“I’m pretty happy that I could turn my head on into fight mode and really stay focus. That was the key.”

Fresh off a fourth career title at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, the No. 3 seed came to Indian Wells looking to raise awareness for Ukraine as it weathers an invasion from Russian military forces, pledging to wear a blue and yellow ribbon in support of their flag.

But the 20-year-old is clearly still learning to balance external pressures with her own high expectations—particularly with the No. 2 ranking in play for the Pole following Barbora Krejcikova’s withdrawal from the event.

“I think the first set showed me that maybe I’m thinking a little bit too much because I really had a hard time focusing,” she admitted after ousting the Ukrainian in two hours flat, “so I have to cut off all the things that are going on around me. I just want to be focused in my next match only on things happening on court because that worked in my previous tournaments.

“I’m pretty proud of myself but sometimes it’s hard to play the next tournament after winning, because your expectations are up high. I want to work on that because it’s not like I have huge experience with winning tournaments. This is going to be a test for me, for sure.”

In Halep’s half of the draw, Swiatek will face another test against either Beatriz Haddad Maia or No. 29 seed Clara Tauson. Haddad Maia blitzed former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the first round while Tauson is the one of the sport’s most dangerous floaters, having shocked Anett Kontaveit in Australia last month.

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