WATCH: Halep won her first match since Rome at the Western & Southern Open in three tough sets.

Simona Halep’s clay-court season came to a sudden end when she gripped left leg and retired against Angelique Kerber at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Her hard-court campaign appeared similarly in doubt when, in just her second match since Rome, she pulled at her right thigh in the second set of a Western & Southern Open clash with Magda Linette.

Looking initially hindered under heavy strapping, Halep emerged from the medical timeout and subsequent rain delay able to dominate the key points despite a lack of match play and dismiss the Pole, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

The former world No. 1 has endured a season defined by injuries: her Miami Open run ended due to a shoulder injury, and the calf tear she picked up in May ruled her out of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon—the latter where she had been defending champion.

Halep aimed for a triumphant return in Montréal, where she proved victorious in 2018, only to run into an on-fire Danielle Collins and bow out of the Omnium Banque Nationale in three grueling sets. The defeat ended a 373-week streak as a Top 10 player, one that began when she first ascended into the upper echelon of the WTA rankings in 2014.


The confidence is not very high and she was very powerful on court, so it was really tough to return the balls. I just kept fighting, and I'm really happy to win the first match of the comeback. Simona Halep

It was against Collins that the key points laid just beyond her grasp; twice up a break in the final set, the Romanian would lose four of the final five games, culminating in a marathon finale that saw the American secure the upset on her fifth match point.

Like Collins, who played Halep tough in her Grand Slam debut nearly a decade ago, Linette forced her illustrious opposition into a final set in their most recent encounter, at the 2019 French Open. Not far from a career-high ranking of No. 33, the 29-year-old shook off a lost opening set to rebound with an early break in the second.

A three-time runner-up in Cincinnati, Halep appeared out of answers after a medical timeout, looking blocked on her serve and hindered in her movement as Linette moved ahead, 4-1.

The forecast would ultimately deliver her from disaster; though she couldn’t prevent a final set upon the resumption, she made the most of the ensuing decider by playing rock-sold tennis when it mattered most. Fending off a trio of break points in the first game, Halep would save four more en route to a deceptively commanding 5-0 lead.


Halep is a three-time Western & Southern Open finalist, most recently in 2018.

Halep is a three-time Western & Southern Open finalist, most recently in 2018.

Though Linette made a brave last stand to get on the board, the two-time major champion bottled her lingering frustration to close out the contest in just over two hours. Halep struck an even 26 winners to 26 unforced errors while managing a whopping 11 aces, a tall stat for the 5’6” starlet on a good day, and saving 12 of 14 break points against her unseeded opposition.

Whether or not Halep continues in Cincinnati, she can take heart in having rediscovered her winning mentality in time for the US Open, the major tournament that has troubled the 2015 semifinalist most in her otherwise illustrious career.

A stressful fortnight in New York will undoubtedly come down to key points; if Halep’s health holds, she now knows she can win them.