“I’ve no idea how I won tonight,” said Halep, who claimed the last four games of the match from 2-4 down to seal the win, despite feeling some pain in her leg midway through the match.
“It’s so tough to explain what happened on court, but it was a very tough one against an amazing player. It was really difficult to stay there for every ball, to run so much. I got a little bit injured in the second set but I just fought, because I wanted to win and to come back here. Hopefully in the next round, I’ll play better and make a better match.”
Kenin arrived at Melbourne Park fresh from winning her maiden WTA title in Hobart and earned her first Australian Open match win the hard way, seeing off Veronika Kudermetova in three sets and over two hours. Indeed, her first-round match was just six minutes short of Halep’s two-hour, 12-minute opening win over Kaia Kanepi – both eclipsed by Thursday’s two-hour, 31-minute contest that see-sawed to the very end.
Back at Rod Laver Arena for the first time since last year’s final – with the roof closed after an earlier downpour – Halep proved a class apart when it mattered against Kenin, bringing the American’s six-match streak on Australian soil to an end.
The world No.1 broke in the opening game and never looked back. While Kenin kept things entertaining, Halep always seemed a step ahead in the rallies, where her trademark defensive excellence was backed up by a string of winners.
She was helped in part by the 20-year-old’s decision-making, time and again choosing the wrong option after working herself into promising positions – most notably having pulled Halep beyond the tramlines with an angled forehand, only to play the ball back at her scrambling opponent with the rest of the court at her mercy.
As her frustrations grew, Kenin began pulling the trigger on shots that were not there for the taking and Halep broke once more to seal the opener, the second in a five-game surge that the American finally halted to trail 3-1 in the second.