Halep survives scare and rolled ankle at Melbourne Park

Updated: 

It was far from perfect and ideal but world number one Simona Halep avoided a big scare as she outlasted local teenager Destanee Aiava 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 to reach the Australian Open second round.

The Australian Open has never been a happy hunting ground for Halep, who suffered successive first-round exits in 2016 and 2017.

And the Romanian star was facing another early elimination at Melbourne Park when 17-year-old Aiava powered her way to a 5-2 lead and a pair of set points after chest discomfort had forced her off the court for treatment.

But Halep - who rolled her left ankle in a worrying moment in the second set - dug deep to battle into the next round, though the two-time quarter-finalist appeared in discomfort between points.

Aiava looked overawed early but the powerful teenager eventually settled and reeled off three successive games for a 3-1 lead.

Halep, however, managed to stem the tide and halt the hard-hitting Australian by breaking back in the next game.

But Halep never looked comfortable, forced to rush her shots as Aiava fended off three break points to take a commanding 5-2 lead.

Just as Aiava was about to serve for the set, she required off-court treatment after complaining of chest problems.

Aiava returned to the court a shadow of herself, zapped of energy and momentum - even forgetting the score - and Halep pounced, saving two set points as she won three consecutive games to level the match.

Despite her body language fading, Aiava refused to surrender to force a tie-break but Halep's experience paid off in the opening set.

And Halep - seeking her maiden major following two runner-up trophies at the French Open - continued where she left off in the second set, despite hurting her ankle which required further strapping and saw her walk gingerly between points, as a deflated Aiava bowed out.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN 
Halep [1] bt Alava 7-6 [7-5] 6-1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 
Halep - 20/22
Alava - 25/51

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 
Halep - 2/1
Alava - 2/9

BREAK POINTS WON 
Halep - 5/13
Alava - 3/8

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE 
Halep - 57
Alava - 51

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE 
Halep - 63/51
Alava - 51/48

TOTAL POINTS 
Halep - 84
Alava - 72