After a straight forward first set, fourth-seeded Simona Halep found herself in a dicey situation against lucky loser Nicole Gibbs before righting the ship, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, in the opening round of the US Open Tuesday. It was Halep’s first win at Flushing Meadows since her quarterfinal showing in 2016.
After being diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer in April, Gibbs was forced to skip the rest of the clay-court swing, undergoing surgery in May to remove the tumor. She had found out about the life-threatening illness after a visit to the dentist. In her first tournament back, Gibbs reached the final of Honolulu, an ITF event in July.
“About a month ago, I went to the dentist and was alerted to a growth on the roof of my mouth,” she wrote on Twitter. “The biopsy came back positive for a rare cancer called mucoepidermoid carcinoma (salivary gland cancer).
"Fortunately, this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment. He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”
Quick update ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/NkODqVreVI— Nicole Gibbs (@Gibbsyyyy) May 13, 2019
Playing in Louis Armstrong Stadium, Halep looked strong in the first set, using her fast legs to dictate the rallies. It wasn't easy for the lucky loser, whose balls where landing right in the Romanian's strike zone. After securing the first set, Halep started to lose steam, letting Gibbs in the match. The former No. 1's frustration started to build, causing her unravel.
A set apiece, Halep got her nose in front, taking firm control of the third set. Gibbs, who left her heart out on the court, was not able to make another comeback as the Wimbledon champion closed out the match in three sets.
In the next round, the two-time Grand Slam champion will square off against qualifier Taylor Townsend, who rallied past Kateryna Kozlova, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Halep has won all three of their encounters without dropping a set.
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