Halep produces first win of injury comeback campaign

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Simona Halep earned her first victory since last May's calf injury pause as the three-time finalist defeated Magda Linette 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday at the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters.

Halep only returned to the Tour last week in Montreal, losing in the opening round. She remained confident that progress was not far away after her injury in Rome three months ago.

The Romanian defeated her Polish opponent for a second time, taking just over two hours on a day of rain interruptions.

"It was a strong match. In my opinion, both of us played really well," the 29-year-old said.

"Maybe the rain delay helped me a little bit to find energy. I was a little bit stronger physically and mentally in the third set.

"It means a lot, I'm really happy to win. It's always important to have victories when you come back from an injury.

"This was the first time in my life that I've had this kind of problem, and I didn't really know how to manage it. But I'm happy to be back, happy to play pain-free. I'm just trying to build my confidence back."

The 12th seed, a former number one, played Cincinnati finals in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

She dominated her 44th-ranked opponent with 11 aces and four breaks of serve.

Hopes ended for Britain's Johanna Konta in a 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 loss to Czech Karolina Muchova.

Konta has now lost in the Cincinnati first round in three of her last four appearances at the tournament, reaching the semi-finals in 2020 when the event was staged in New York under strict Covid-19 protocols.

In the men's draw, 2017 winner Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the second round as he eliminated 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut before the bad weather kicked in, posting a 6-3, 6-4 scoreline over the Spaniard.

American Sebastian Korda won his 23rd match this season as he quickly brushed aside Serb Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-4 to line up against second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 45th-ranked Korda, the son of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda, won the Parma title this season.

His match with Djere was paused for more than an hour after Korda missed out on two match point chances before the weather arrived.

But once back on court he came up third time lucky to get the job done after 84 minutes of play.

After losing three times in the first round at the pre-US Open tuneup, Hubert Hurkacz finally earned a win as he defeated Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1.

The 12th-ranked Pole who defeated Roger Federer in the Wimbledon fourth round now faces wild card Andy Murray.