‘Confident’ Halep progresses in Paris despite second-set blip

Simona Halep won the first-round victory against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. (AFP pic)

PARIS: Reigning champion said she was “confident” for her French Open title defence after an ultimately comfortable first-round victory on Tuesday despite a second-set blip against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.

The Romanian was pegged back on Court Philippe Chatrier but raced through the decider to win 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Halep, seeded third, will face Poland’s Magda Linette for a place in the last 32.

“I felt really well for the first round, and I am confident now,” she said.

“It was a great match… I had to be focused more on myself to find out what I have to play better in the third set to be able to win.”

Halep won her maiden Grand Slam title in Paris last year after three previous final defeats, putting the persistent questions about her being a world number one without a major trophy to bed.

“I feel like I have improved a lot in this year since I won here,” added Halep. “I’m a different person. I’m a better person. And now what comes, comes as a bonus.

“I had different nerves, for sure, because I’m for the first time in this position to be the defending champion.”

The 27-year-old looked to be in total control after taking the first set in under half an hour.

Tomljanovic, who reached the last 16 in 2014, hit back though to level the match.

But Halep, like world number one Naomi Osaka in the preceding match on the show court, avoided an upset by easing through the third set despite being broken when initially serving for the match.

Halep finished an accomplished display with 19 winners and 22 unforced errors.

The withdrawal of sixth seed Petra Kvitova through injury means that Halep will not have to face another top-10 player until at least the semi-finals.

But she insists she will not look too far ahead as she bids to become the first back-to-back women’s Roland Garros champion since Belgian Justine Henin won her third consecutive title in 2007.

“I have just to take the next round 100% serious, and then if I can go through, I will think about the third round,” Halep added.

“The fact that I am 100% fit to be able to play this tournament and to have the chance to leave everything I have on court, I think it’s the best thing that can happen to me. I am positive.”