Simona Halep kept up her impressive form at the French Open, dispatching Tatjana Maria, 6-4, 6-3 to book a clay court special against Volvo Car Open champion Daria Kasatkina in the third round.
“I think it was a difficult match today,” she said in her post-match press conference. “I hadn’t played against her in many years. I didn’t expect her to play at such a high level, so at the beginning I was a little bit insecure. I didn’t know exactly what I had to do, what to attack or whether to take a step behind the court and the line or just to play the same.”
Despite arriving to Paris with injury concerns, the left ankle that hampered her Internazionali BNL d’Italia performance has looked stronger and stronger as the fortnight has progressed, helping her play some signature defense on Thursday.
“I started to mix up the play. I feel the forehand was much better than the first round, but still I can do much more with it.
“I lost some serves, but I think I served pretty okay. I think the match was great, in my opinion, very good level, and she’s a very tough opponent.”
Maria had won their only two encounters in 2009, Halep’s first year on tour, and gave the Romanian all she could handle in the 82-minute match, approaching the net and pulling off some audacious dropshots to keep each set close.
“I’m fit. I’m ready to play. I’m ready to play also three hours.”
In the end, the 2014 finalist was able to pull away when it mattered most, winning the final two games of each set to put herself one match from the second week.
“It’s good to win in two sets; I think gives you more confidence. I feel comfortable there on court, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be the same in next round.
“I’ll just take all the positives from these two rounds and look forward for the next one.”
Halep played solid off both wings, hitting 23 winners to 19 unforced errors and broke serve five times on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Up next for the Romanian is No.26 seed Kasatkina, a fellow junior French Open champion who won her first WTA title on clay in Charleston.
“I’m excited to play against her. Each time I play her, it’s a tough match. She has a very big topspin forehand, so it’s going to be very heavy. I have to make her run, because she’s a little bit injured, like me!” Halep joked, noting both arrived at the French Open nursing ankle injuries.
“It’s gonna be a tough one, but it’s a big challenge again for me. I feel ready. I feel that I have confidence. I have my chance to win. So I have just to stay on my plan against her, and to believe that I can win.”