World no. 2 Simona Halep is making her return at this week's Prague event, struggling in the opening rounds but reaching the quarter-final. After a challenging match against Polona Hercog, Simona had to work hard on Thursday too, ousting the Czech player with a wild card Barbora Krejcikova 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in two hours and five minutes.
The Wimbledon champion won just three points more than world no. 118, surviving the pivotal service game at 5-5 in set number two and marching towards the finish line in the decider to find herself in the last eight. Struggling with a shoulder injury, Simona hit two aces and ten double faults, dropping half of the points behind the initial shot and giving serve away seven times.
It wasn't enough for Krejcikova to cross the finish line first, delivering even worse performance in her games that offered nine breaks to Halep, enough for the Romanian to stay on the title course. After a backhand error, Barbora got broken in the first game, pulling it back straight away thanks to a double fault from Simona.
They traded breaks in games three and four to stay neck and neck before the Czech earned another one at 3-2 when Halep's backhand landed long. Playing on a high level, the home competitor notched two commanding holds and brought the opener home with a service winner in the ninth game for a 6-3.
The second set saw seven breaks in 12 games, five in the opening six. The Romanian grabbed three of those, moving 4-2 in front with a forehand winner and serving for the set at 5-3. Krejcikova fended off four set points and pulled the break back when Halep netted a forehand, staying in contention and looking good to produce a stunner.
Simona survived two deuces in the 11th game for a massive boost, forcing an error from Barbora to steal the break and set 7-5, becoming a favorite ahead of the decider.
Simona Halep needed more than two hours to oust Barbora Krejcikova.
There, both players had their chances on the return and it was the more experienced one who used them more efficiently, rattling off the final six games to avoid an upset. Krajcikova forged an early 2-0 lead before Simona shifted into a higher gear, saving a break point in game three and never looking back.
The Romanian broke back at 15 in game four and secured another one at 3-2 following a backhand mistake from an exhausted rival. A service winner sent Halep 5-2 in front, moving over the top with a break at love a few minutes later for the place in the last eight.