Simona Halep avoided the embarrassment of falling victim to a teenager who calls herself “a child of the internet” as she huffed and puffed her way into the fourth round of the French Open with a 4-6 6-2 6-3 win over Naomi Osaka on Friday.
The Romanian’s win has set up an intriguing fourth-round showdown on Sunday with the 2010 runner-up, Australian Sam Stosur, who on Friday beat 2015 finalist Lucie Safarova 6-3 6-7 (0-7) 7-5.
It seemed as if Halep’s name would be splashed across the World Wide Web as the latest high-profile casualty in the French capital. She was totally bamboozled in the opening set by a Japanese opponent ranked 101st in the world.
The sixth seeded Halep made sure she did not suffer the same fate as Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber or fifth seed Victoria Azarenka. She kept her wits about her despite a barrage of winners flying off Osaka’s racket.
The 18-year-old’s winning groundstrokes in the opening set drove Halep to take out her frustration on her racket as she went set point down. She earned a code violation from the umpire for turning her racket into a mangled mess after repeatedly hammering the frame against the red dirt.
It was too late to save the first set, but releasing her anger certainly produced the desired result in the second set. The 2014 Roland Garros finalist saved a break point in the opening game before levelling the match.
Osaka, who was born in Japan but raised in the United States by her Haitian father and Japanese mother, was not one to give up easily. She fought back from 3-1 down in the third set to 3-3, again raising the prospect of an upset.
However, by this stage, Halep had had her fill of close calls for the day. She ran off with the last three games to wrap up victory.
“She has more experience than me … I’m not the greatest player ever, so I can’t be upset that I lost,” Osaka told reporters.
The teenager who once declared “I feel like I’m a child of the internet, and the internet has raised me” may have failed to create the headlines she wanted.