Rusty Halep loses 2019 opener to Barty in Sydney

After cutting her 2018 season short because of a back injury, world No.1 Simona Halep played her first complete match in three and a half months and lost in straight sets to Australian Ashleigh Barty in the second round of the 2019 Sydney International.

Entering the new season without a coach and still unsure about the state of her injury, the top-seeded Halep fell to last year’s Sydney finalist Barty 6-4 6-4. Firing 26 winners to her opponent’s nine, Barty recorded her first victory over a top-ranked WTA player.

Chatting about her injury recovery while sailing around Sydney Harbour on Sunday, Halep explained:

I rested for about six weeks and I did nothing, just exercises for the back. I didn’t have pain while I was practicing this period, off-season. So now I feel confident and it’s OK. But I need to see during the official match.

On Wednesday, commenting on her first match in the 2019 season, Halep acknowledged her rustiness and revealed modest expectations of her performance at the upcoming Australian Open where she finished runner-up last year. At the post-match press conference, Halep praised her Barty’s performance, but also said that she could have won had she not wasted many break chances (Barty saved 9 out of 11 break points) and had she had more inspiration in important points. Most importantly, the Romanian stated that she feels no pain at all, so her injury has probably healed, it’s only that she lacks rhythm.

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