Simona Halep showed no signs of slowing down her run of remarkable form with a 6-4, 6-1 schooling of the highly touted Belinda Bencic to reach the fourth round at The Championships for the first time.
The French Open finalist had seemed less sure of her surroundings after her previous match, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Lesia Tsurenko, which she admitted was “not her best”.
“On grass is not easy,” Halep said. “Every match is difficult. You never know who will win or who will lose because the court, it's really difficult. I believed in my chance today, but after I lost second set, I said that maybe I lose the match because I didn't feel my game.”
But, despite being delayed by rain, the Romanian showed no signs of intimidation at taking on the sport’s next big thing, who has been likened to a young Martina Hingis.
“I expect a tough match. I didn't see her playing – never – and tomorrow will be a little bit tough because I heard she's a good player and she's strong. She's also aggressive,” Halep had said about her young opponent.
Whirling through in exactly 70 minutes on Court 12, Halep was most impressive in the way she commanded the net, converting eight of her 11 approaches, and four of nine break points.
Bencic, by contrast, had just three break points on the Halep serve, and failed to take any of those opportunities.
“I really want to put up a good game, and sometimes I did some stupid mistakes or didn't use my chances, and that's why I was a little bit frustrated,” said the 17-year-old, who is no stranger to these courts after winning the girls’ singles title at Wimbledon last year.
Since that success, Bencic has made her mark on the senior tour already, zooming through qualifying at the Australian Open to reach the second round, and positioning herself inside the world’s top 100 by the time Wimbledon came around.
Her Wimbledon journey may be at an end for this year, but she will leave SW19 with a Grand Slam-best third round to her name.
“I think I can be really happy with this week. I reached third round. It's my best result so far,” she said. “And it's really great after I played just the juniors last year that I'm here in the main draw and I could win two rounds.
“So I'm happy with that, but obviously I will keep improving.”
But it is Halep, the top 10’s newest face, who will return to the All England Club for the second Monday, where she will take on Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan for a place in her first Wimbledon quarter-final.
“I believe in myself and I think I have my chance to win,” she said.
She is the ultimate dark horse.
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