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Top-ranked Halep rallies to advance in Miami Open

Simona Halep of Romania, current world No. 1 on the WTA Tour returns against Oceane Dodin of France, during the women’s single first round at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
Simona Halep of Romania, current world No. 1 on the WTA Tour returns against Oceane Dodin of France, during the women’s single first round at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne on Thursday, March 22, 2018. pportal@miamiherald.com

Simona Halep, the world’s top-ranked player, rallied from a set down to beat 98th-ranked Oceane Dodin of France in the second round of the Miami Open on a chillier-than-usual Thursday afternoon.

Halep, of Romania, won 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 after receiving treatment on her neck twice, and will face Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

“I played bad, but, you know, you have these days, and when you don’t give up, is the most important thing,” Halep said. “I think that’s why I won today, because I didn’t give up. I didn’t play well, but, you know, in the end, if you win it, you take only the positives.”

Halep reached her third Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but is still awaiting her first trophy. She reached the Miami Open semifinals in 2015.

She said she has learned to be more patient and that has resulted in more three-set victories.

“Before maybe previous years I couldn’t win the matches in the third set, so I’m really happy that I changed this to myself, and I feel stronger,” she said. “So when I go to the third set, I don’t panic. I’m relaxed and I’m just fighting till the end, and I’m sure that I have a big chance to win the match, so I just go for it.”

Also on Thursday, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber of Germany rolled past Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-2, and Czech Karolina Pliskova beat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 7-5, 7-5.

Kerber is 19-4 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments she’s played after struggling through a difficult 2017 season. In 2016, she won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. She was eager to win on Thursday after a humbling 6-0, 6-2 loss to Daria Kasatkina at Indian Wells, Calif., last week.

“After Indian Wells, it was really important to come here and to win the first match,” Kerber said. “The first matches are always tough, especially because the conditions are completely different than in Indian Wells. I learned a lot from the last few months. To be honest, I just forget about the last match in Indian Wells. I mean, it was not my day. Here the tournament starts from zero. It’s a new tournament.”

She took the same approach to 2018 after a forgettable 2017. She said her attitude changed on New Year’s Eve.

“New Year’s, that was I think the moment where I knew, okay, completely the 2017 is over and we start a new year. I think that was the moment. It was not on court. It was just outside. But that was the moment that 2017 is over and a completely new year starts. I felt right away very good.”

In other Thursday day session matches, Leonardo Mayer of Argentina beat American Donald Young 3-6, 6-4, 6-2; American Sloane Stephens breezed past wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-3; and American qualifier Allison Riske beat Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-1.

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