by Kevin Craig
Simona Halep was able to fight off a valiant effort from the No. 31 seed Timea Babos of Hungary on Saturday at the US Open, solidifying her spot in the fourth round of the US Open with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 win.
“I don’t know how I came back. I felt like I didn’t play my best but I was fighting to the end for every ball,” said Halep.
The 5th seeded had been struggling in 2016, by her standards, but has managed to turn that form around in the past few months. Since May, when her ranking fell to No. 7 after having been ranked No. 2 at the start of the year, Halep has a 29-4 record. During that impressive run of form, the Romanian has racked up three titles, two of which were Premier level events, and had a 13-match win streak.
To no one’s surprise, Halep has continued to play well in New York, not dropping a set in her first two matches. Babos, though, gave Halep her first scare of the tournament, and almost sent her packing.
In the first set on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Halep looked to be in the same form she has been all summer, breaking Babos three times and saving the two break points she faced in the set. She only had difficulty in one of her three service games of the set, as she only dropped one point in the other two games.
Babos looked to have things figured out early on in the second set, as she took Halep to deuce in her first service game of the set before breaking the Romanian the next three times. Those three breaks for Babos were more than enough to level the match at one set each.
In the third, the Hungarian continued to have the momentum on her side as she broke Halep for the fourth time in a row to go up a break in the first game. Serving at 3-2, though, Babos finally cracked and the 2014 French Open runner-up broke back, but almost gave up another break at 4-4 as she had to dig out of a 15-40 hole to hold. In the next game, though, Halep was able to break Babos to close out the nervy three-set victory.
“I was trying to push her back. I was trying to run for every ball. I did everything I could today and I’m really happy I could finish the match in my way,” said Halep.
The 24-year old Halep, who was a point away from letting her opponent serve for the match, is now into the fourth round of a major for the third major in a row and the ninth time in her career. She will take on the No. 11 seed Carla Suarez Navarro for a spot in the quarterfinals.