Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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Bitterly disappointed after losing the French Open final to the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko three weeks ago, Simona Halep rebounded on the Wimbledon grass with a solid performance against Marina Erakovic in her opening round.
The Romanian No.2 seed was just too consistent for a highly erratic Erakovic, winning 6-4, 6-1.
“It was a tough round, but good that I could win it. After I found the rhythm, I was pushing her back more,” Halep said after reaching the second round just before a 30-minute rain delay.
Halep, who produced 19 winners and made 24 unforced errors, saw her strategy pay off. Her opponent, the world No.129 from New Zealand, struck just seven winners and made 31 mistakes.
“She was struggling a little bit to return the balls,” Halep said, adding the balls were skidding more on No.2 Court compared to the practice courts at Aorangi Park. “But I knew also that she won a few matches, about 10 or 12 matches on grass, before this tournament. I had nerves before the match.”
Making her seventh appearance on the Wimbledon grass, the 2014 semi-finalist was always in control, even as the wind started to swirl around the All England Club 20 minutes into their match.
Both players held serve in the first set until Halep stepped it up to break for a 3-2 lead. Serving for the first set at 5-4, Halep set up a set point with an ace, only to produce a double fault. A second set point followed, which she missed when the ball sailed out of the stadium following a bad bounce. But it was three times lucky as Erakovic dumped a forehand into the net on Halep’s third set point.
I just wanted to forget everything, to start again, which I did. I feel good now
The momentum now firmly with Halep, Erakovic dropped serve in the opening game of the second set. On a roll, Halep’s pin-point precision from the back of the court often drew the error and she quickly raced to a 3-0 lead.
After a brief delay for rain with Halep serving at 4-1, Erakovic twice had break point, only to hit a forehand into the net both times. Serving to stay in the match at 5-1 down, she saved one match point before succumbing on the second as she failed to control a return aimed at her feet.
In the spotlight at Roland Garros last month as the pre-tournament favourite in the absence of 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams, Halep said she is enjoying being somewhat of an underdog on the London lawns.
“Here, no one is talking about me,” said Halep, who lost the French Open final despite leading by a set and a break as Ostapenko ripped 54 winners. After a few days off at home after Paris, Halep was anxious to get back on the court.
“I just wanted to forget everything, to start again, which I did. I feel good now,” said the 25-year-old Romanian, who received a wild card for Eastbourne last week, where she lost in the quarter-final to Caroline Wozniacki.
It also helps that Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon winner, isn’t in the draw for the first time since 2006.
“I feel that everyone has a chance here, like in French Open. When I said at the beginning of the tournament that Serena is not here, the tournament, it's for sure more open. Everyone is more relaxed,” said Halep, who lost in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year to women’s No.1 seed Angelique Kerber.