The world No.1 was on the receiving end of some heavy blows from Caroline Dolehide, but she prevailed 1-6 7-6(3) 6-2 and gleefully avoided becoming the latest seed to tumble.
Due to ankle trouble, Halep has not had much match-time in recent weeks and she was tentative in the early stages. Her opponent, a wildcard entry ranked No.165 in the world, capitalised on the Romanian’s unconvincing start and raced through the first set.
Dolehide was involved in the 125k Series event in Indian Wells last week and she clearly enjoys the lively conditions in the California desert. The 19-year-old was at ease in the lavish surroundings of Court 1, and it was not just her raw power that had spectators double-checking her ranking.
The teenager showed an eagerness to capitalise on her meaty groundstrokes and was a frequent visitor to the net. She posted good numbers in the forecourt and her variety will only stand her in good stead as she continues her ascend.
Halep picked up just one game in the opener, and her lack of aggression was a contributing factor. After an upbeat pep-talk from her coach, Darren Cahill, she began to pose more of an attacking threat – and it eventually paid dividends.
Four break of serve were traded in succession before a tiebreak was called into action. Dolehide fell behind early in the shootout and Halep used her vast-experience to maintain her advantage and force a decider.
It had been a sterling effort from the young American, who earned the respect of the sparse crowd due to her tigerish endeavours, but her challenge faded as she tired.
There was still the occasional moment of bother for Halep in the final set, however she was always in control.
“I have a lot of respect for her [Dolehide],” remarked the world No.1. “She is a great player and it was really tough to beat her. I was in a little bit of trouble in the second set, but I just wanted to fight until the end.
“After I won the second set, I thought I had a bigger chance to win the match. She was a little bit down after losing the second set. I think I moved well and got stronger in the legs, so maybe that’s why I won it in the end.”