SYDNEY (Reuters) – World number two Simona Halep gave her injured left leg a good workout but bowed out of the Sydney International in the semi-finals after a hard-fought 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova on Friday.
Kuznetsova will play Costa Rican qualifier Monica Puig for the title later on Friday as organisers of the Australian Open warm-up look to catch up after Thursday’s violent storm severely disrupted the event.
Halep, who on Friday was drawn to play a qualifier in the season’s opening grand slam, came into the tournament with fitness concerns after pulling out of last week’s Brisbane International due to a long-term Achilles injury.
The Romanian’s match against former French and U.S Open champion Kuznetsova was a thorough test of her fitness before she decamps to Melbourne Park and she played a full part in a tight, two hour 45-minute contest.
The match started on Thursday evening but Halep was unable to convert her 5-4 overnight lead into a 1-0 advantage when it resumed in largely dry but blustery conditions on Friday.
Kuznetsova won the opening set on a tiebreak but Halep broke the 30-year-old’s first service game in the second and evened up the contest after 51 minutes when the Russian netted a return.
The deciding set was again a tight affair studded with quality rallies which Kuznetsova won only after she had saved two break points while serving for the match.
Puig continued her fairytale run at Olympic Park when she converted a 4-0 15-0 overnight lead to win the first set 6-0 and Swiss Belinda Bencic decided she could no longer continue.
“I retired today because I was throwing up all morning and feeling sick,” Bencic, the 12th seed at the Australian Open, said in a message to organisers.
“In respect of Monica, I wanted to go to court to at least try.”
(By Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)