World number one Simona Halep stunned in Sydney

Ruben Hill
January 12, 2019

The Romanian hadn't played since withdrawing from the WTA Finals in October with a herniated disc, and was no match for fast-rising Australian Ashleigh Barty, who scored the biggest win of her career 6-4, 6-4.

Asked about being down 0-40 at a crucial point in the first set, Barty said she gave herself a quick pep-talk on the court.

Kiki Bertenes, seeded seventh, awaits Putintseva after she received a walkover win due to former world number one Garbine Muguruza suffering a gastrointestinal illness.

"But also I was very close to winning. It's a great sign", she said.

"I dug myself into a little bit of a hole there, but I just said, "Look mate, be aggressive", Barty said.

The 22-year-old Barty faces either Elise Mertens or the victor of the first round clash between Anett Kontaveit and Monica Puig in the quarter-finals.

And while Barty is 33/1 with Unibet to win the Australian Open, those odds are bound to shorten if she goes on to win the title in Sydney. Cahill had coached Halep for four years.

The 22-year-old struggled after missing the first but she did enough to prevail as the victor, fending off nine out of 11 break points she faced to seal the deal and celebrate a huge triumph after believing in herself all the time, even when she was a break down in set number two.

"In those conditions, it's very tricky court level".

"It was extremely hard conditions and extremely swirly at court level", Barty said afterwards.

"I finally learned my lesson. Just very happy I was able to come out and executive".

"The biggest thing, I believed that I could I win".

Halep, playing in her first tournament since a back injury cut short her 2018 season, lost 6-4 6-4 in 87 minutes with the result dealing a blow to her Australian Open preparations.

Fourth seed Stephens was beaten by Johanna Konta in the first round of the Brisbane International last week, and the American had to recover from a first-set bagel to defeat qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova in the opening round in Sydney.

In the men's draw, third seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman booked his place in the quarters by beating Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in two sets. France's Gilles Simon will take on another Australian, John Millman.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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