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Defending champion Halep eases into French Open last 16

By Reuters - Jun 02,2019 - Last updated at Jun 02,2019

Romania’s Simona Halep greets the crowd after winning her third round match against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko at the French Open in Paris on Saturday (Reuters photo by Gonzalo Fuentes)

PARIS — A ruthlessly efficient Simona Halep marched into the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday, dropping just three games against Lesia Tsurenko.

Halep, the defending champion from Romania, had been forced to go the distance in the first two rounds. Playing her best match of the tournament, she had no trouble against an error-strewn Tsurenko, winning 6-2, 6-1 in just 55 minutes to extend her win streak against the No. 27 seed from Ukraine to 8-0.

After a relatively cool start to the first week of the French Open, temperatures are expected to soar to as high as 30ºC at the end of the afternoon at Roland Garros in Paris.

Taking advantage of the balls kicking up higher on the clay of the main Court Philippe-Chatrier, Halep took the first set in just 28 minutes as she dominated her opponent from the back of the court.

Tsurenko, who had won her previous match 11-9 in the decider against Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic playing with a broken racket, requested a medical timeout as she trailed 3-0 in the second set.

Watched by Romanian billionaire Ion Tiriac, Halep’s intensity never dropped, as she took a 4-0 lead with aggressive shot-making. Serving for the match at 5-0, Halep got broken, but booked a spot in the fourth round in the next game with a volley, her ninth winner. She made 14 errors, while Tsurenko had just 8 winners and made 32 unforced errors.

“It was a tough match even if the scoreline does not show it,” Halep said.

“Every day in my life I have that image of me winning last year in my mind, it was my greatest moment of my career and it was all the more satisfying for having won here in the juniors as well.”

Meanwhile, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza laid down an impressive marker as she overpowered ninth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Friday to set up a fourth-round clash with last year’s runner-up Sloane Stephens.

The 19th seed has struggled for consistency this year, hence her low seeding, but Roland Garros tends to bring the best out of her. And so it proved again as the 2016 champion outplayed the Ukrainian on a sunny Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I feel very good in this tournament. I have always loved it since I was a little girl,” Muguruza, who improved her career record at the French Open to 27-5, told reporters.

“I also love the clay. Yeah, I don’t know what it is about the French Open that always gives me a nice mood, and my tennis develops much better.”

The tall Muguruza made her intentions clear from the start, planting herself on the baseline and blazing away with her baseline power-game that Svitolina struggled to contain.

Muguruza made 29 unforced errors, compared with 23 winners — a consequence of the aggressive tactics she employed. Key to her domination, however, were the 26 errors she pressurised Svitolina into making.

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