MASON, Ohio (AP) – Simona Halep wasn’t sure how her left foot would feel. After dropping her first set but feeling no pain, she dug in and advanced at the Western & Southern Open.
The fourth-seeded Halep had no problems with her left Achilles as she rallied to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday, one week after she dropped out of the Rogers Cup quarterfinals because of the injury. She was tentative when she took the court.
“You are a bit scared,” Halep said. “But I think I played much better in the end.”
The Wimbledon champion fought off two break points in the third set and then broke Alexandrova to serve for the match. It wasn’t easy, but at least it was pain-free.
“I felt slowly that I’m feeling good and I have no pain,” Halep said. “I got the confidence game by game, even if she was leading me.”
Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty beat Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1. Sharapova has had a rough time since retiring in the first round at Wimbledon with a forearm injury, losing in the opening round at Toronto after leading by a set.
Sharapova reported no physical problems, but she felt rusty because of the lack of matches due to the injury – something she can fix with practice.
“I have sat in this chair a few times where I haven’t finished the match or I feel like I have a long road ahead of me in terms of recovery with the body, so, yeah, that’s a positive,” she said. “But there’s definitely the repetition, just the feeling of being in a match. It’s very different.”
In the men’s bracket, qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka knocked off sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori 7-6 (2), 6-4, leaving the tournament without 15 of the top 32 seeds in the men’s and women’s draws. Second-seeded Rafael Nadal withdrew because of fatigue after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Sunday. Serena Williams withdrew because of back spasms lingering from the weekend.
Nishioka won the matchup of Japan’s top two players after going sleepless the previous night.
“I was so excited to play with him because he’s the hero of Japanese tennis, most of the Asian tennis,” Nishioka said. “So I was very excited to play. I couldn’t sleep yesterday, you know.”
The two had practiced together but never faced each other in a tournament.
“Good to see he’s getting stronger, growing up,” Nishikori said.
AP freelance writer Mark Schmetzer contributed to this report.
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