As Coco Gauff turned 18 on Sunday, Simona Halep turned back the clock in a classic performance from the former top-ranked player and 2015 BNP Paribas Open champion.
The 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gauff was Halep’s first over a top-20 player in Indian Wells in seven years, and Halep won it decisively.
With gusts of wind swirling on Stadium Court, Halep broke in the third game of the first set and held her own serve to end the set. He won 84% of his first serve points in his first five service games.
“I’m very happy with the way I played,” said Halep. “I think I played smart tennis.
“I just wanted to focus on what I thought before the match that I had to do, and I did it 100% well.”
Halep, the 24th seed, now advances to play compatriot Sorana Cîrstea on Tuesday in the round of 16 of the tournament. Gauff is now 0-2 in her career against Halep.
Gauff, the only teenager in the top 100 of the WTA, is seen as one of the sport’s rising stars and had a chance to be the first American singles champion here since 2001. She said on Friday she had never played a match in her birthday and that Sunday would be another game day.
But from almost the beginning it was not like that. Halep seemed more poised and aggressive, raising her fists and screaming after several big points. She forced Gauff to play from behind and the Delray Beach, Fla., native was unable to stop Halep’s serve.
PLUS: Coco Gauff speaks out against Florida’s anti-LGBTQ bill
OPINION: Naomi Osaka was interrupted because cowards feel safe in crowds
‘LOOKS TO BE MORE EXTREME’: Violent sports fans are causing alarm at all levels.
“I thought he played well,” Gauff said. “I thought she had a lot of chances, a couple of break points here and there. Overall I think it was a good match. She has a great level and she knew it early on. I think she was making the right decisions.” , just don’t run them.”
In the second set, after the two had held serve for four games each, Halep broke a break and served out the match in the next service game. Just like that, Gauff was eliminated from the draw.
Halep, who reached the Indian Wells semi-finals in 2014 and beat Jelena Jankovic a year later in the final, hadn’t had a standout victory since the BNP Paribas Open. As the world No. 1 player in 2018, she lost to Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-0, in Indian Wells and as of Saturday had not beaten a top seed in the California desert.
She will play another top seed on Tuesday at Cîrstea, with whom Halep has practiced but not played in a match in over a decade.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for me,” Halep said. “It’s just another match. I’m used to playing Romanians. Of course, it will be difficult. She’s a great player.”
“I’m just looking forward to tomorrow’s day off and I’ll think about the match afterwards.”
Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and USA Today Network. Email him at [email protected] and find him on Twitter at @Andrew_L_John.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: BNP Paribas Open: Simona Halep ruins Coco Gauff’s 18th birthday