By Sudipto Ganguly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Top seed Simona Halep had to summon all of her determination and grit against Kaia Kanepi in a 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2 victory in the Australian Open on Tuesday and survive a repeat of a first-round Grand Slam exit at the hands of the Estonian.
In a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open first round, where Kanepi dumped her out in straight sets, Halep had to dig deep against the powerful groundstrokes of her opponent, who is ranked 71 but had not played since New York.
The 2018 French Open champion was without a coach and on a five-match losing streak coming into the year’s first Grand Slam and had to make sure she kept her unforced errors to a minimum.
She broke Kanepi twice in the final set and sealed the match when her opponent sent a forehand wide for her 62nd unforced error. Halep will next play American Sofia Kenin, who earlier beat Russian qualifier Veronika Kudermetova 6-3 3-6 7-5.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge)