Returning to action at this week's Prague event, Simona Halep had to dig deep in the opening two rounds to reach the quarters. Following a tight triumph over Polona Hercog, the Romanian ousted 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 doubles specialist, surviving the pivotal service game at 5-5 in set number two and marching towards the finish line in the decider to remain on the title course.
Struggling with a shoulder injury, Simona hit two aces and ten double faults, dropping half of the points behind the initial shot and suffering no less than seven breaks. It wasn't enough for Krejcikova to take advantage of that, delivering even worse performance in her games that secured nine breaks for Halep, enough for the Romanian to move into the next round.
Barbora got broken in the first game after a backhand error, pulling it back straight away thanks to a double fault from Simona. They traded breaks in games three and four to stay close to each other, with the Czech earning another at 3-2 when Halep's backhand landed long.
Playing on a high level, the home competitor notched two commanding holds to bring 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.
Valiant 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 on serve in the 11th game for a massive boost, forcing an error from Barbora to steal the break a few minutes later and clinch the set 7-5, becoming a favorite in the decider.
Simona Halep prevailed against Barbora Krejcikova to reach the quarters.
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 seal the deal in style.
Krajcikova forged an early 2-0 lead before Simona shifted into a higher gear, saving a break point in game three that could have sent her 3-0 down and never looking back. The Romanian broke back at 15 in game four and secured another at 3-2 following a backhand mistake from the Czech.
A service winner sent Halep 5-2 in front, moving over the top with a break at love a few minutes later to hit the quarters against Magdalena Frech. "I didn't feel great. My energy was not great, but sometimes it's more important to win matches you're not playing so great in, and you just find a way to fight and win it.
It's never easy to play someone so good in the doubles, because she hits different angles, which makes it very interesting and very difficult. It wasn't an excellent level from me, in my opinion, but the most important thing is that I was able to win.
It took me time to get ready for the match, but she played so well, so it wasn't just about me on the court. I just tried to stay calm and wait for my chances," Simona Halep said.