Collins knocks out Halep; Badosa advances to Rome Round of 16

No.7 seed Danielle Collins of the United States powered past former World No.1 Simona Halep of Romania 7-6(1), 6-3 in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Wednesday night.

2022 Australian Open finalist Collins improved to 2-1 lifetime against former Rome champion Halep after just over two hours of play. This marks Collins’ first trip to the Rome Round of 16 after two previous second-round losses.

Words from the winner: “Simona is someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, somebody that I really admire as a competitor, as an athlete,” Collins said after her win. “I felt like today kind of worked in my favor because I know her game so well from watching a lot.

“I had to come out and play really aggressive and be consistent at the same time, because she’s relentless, she gets everything back. I just had to be really patient. There were times I was a little up and down with my serving, so I kind of made some adjustments, and just tried to be not too hard on myself.”

Form ousted field: Halep has reached the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final three times, finishing as runner-up to Elina Svitolina in 2017 and 2018 before finally winning the title in 2020.

However, Collins did not let her opponent’s record of excellence in Rome stop her from blasting 38 winners in the match, more than triple Halep’s total of 12. Collins’s 24 winners in the opening set is the highest amount of winners in a set by any player so far this week.

Collins regularly went for bold returns and was rewarded with six service breaks out of nine break points. The American won 60 percent of points when returning the Halep second serve.

Tale of the match: The crunching returns by Collins went up against the footspeed and clay-court craft of Halep, and the players were at a stalemate for most of the first set, exchanging breaks three times.

But after Collins broke Halep at love for 6-6, the American took charge by dominating the tiebreak with aggressive play. Collins claimed the final four points of the breaker to eke out the one-set lead.

After dropping the 81-minute first set, Halep quickly fell behind 4-0 in the second set. Collins was unable to serve out the match at 5-2, but she hit more huge returns to reach double match point on Halep’s serve at 5-3. Collins converted her first chance with a forehand winner down the line.

All-American clash next: Collins will now contest her first meeting with compatriot Amanda Anisimova in the Round of 16. Anisimova upset No.12 seed Belinda Bencic earlier on Wednesday.

“[Anisimova] is a really aggressive player, I feel like we have some similarities in our games,” Collins said. “It will be interesting playing each other for the first time.”

Badosa makes winning debut: No.2 seed Paula Badosa of Spain joined Collins in the Round of 16 with an evening victory of her own. Badosa took 1 hour and 17 minutes to ease past World No.50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 6-1.

“I think it was harder than the scoreline, especially the second set,” Badosa said afterwards. “I think she raised her level a lot and she was going for it every time, very aggressive. I had to do a step more and play with more intensity, and I think I played really well, especially in the second set.”

Despite her lofty seeding, this was Badosa’s first career match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Following a first-round bye, the World No.3 emerged triumphant in her tournament debut, with 17 winners and a 75 percent success rate returning Sasnovich’s second serves.

After saving break point in the first game, Badosa went on a tear, leaping to a 5-0 lead. Things got tricky from there, as Badosa saw five set points come and go in that game, allowing Sasnovich on the board.

Badosa went on to miss out on two more set points as Sasnovich broke for 5-2. But Badosa got an eighth set point in the following game, which went in the Spaniard’s favor as Sasnovich let a forehand miscue fly long.

Badosa also needed four match points in the second set before she prevailed after another long Sasnovich forehand. Sasnovich had seven break points in the match but only converted one of those chances.

In the Round of 16, Badosa will face Daria Kasatkina, who defeated Leylah Fernandez via a third-set tiebreak on Wednesday. Badosa won their only previous meeting, which came on hard court in this year’s Sydney semifinals.

“[Kasatkina] is always a tough opponent, she’s playing very well,” Badosa said. “Her favorite surface is clay courts, so I expect a very tough match there. A lot of rallies, and a tough one physically as well.”

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