Earns a second round match up with the 2018 finalist and former World No. 1
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Harriet Dart finds herself in the second round to face a Slam champion and former World No. 1 once more.
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Harriet Dart [Q] def. Misaki Doi 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6)
After what had been a disappointing morning on a bumper day of matches, Harriet Dart would have been keen to belay any memories of her last outing here as a qualifier when she drew idol Maria Sharapova, and won no games against her.
In an Australian Open punctuated by tearful Brits in press conferences, Dart need time to get her composure before coming into press. This match was a very different affair.
A long first game saw Dart start with a break and consolidation to go 2-0 up and confidence was high – until Misaki Doi went on a run of six straight games to take the first set. In the second set it was Doi who was first to break for a lead, but this time she was pegged back straight away by Dart who had to fight back for two more breaks before closing out the second set on her fourth try.
Dart started the stronger in the decider, but a flurry of breaks in the middle of the set saw Doi get things back on an even keel another brace of breaks took us to a deciding tie-break – with the winner having to reach ten points with a two point advantage.
The holding-serve jitters also was in full effect in the tie-break and it looked like Dart’s fightback had been for nought as Doi raced away to a 5-1 lead. Dart worked her way back into the tie-break – a good reason for it to go to 10 points – as she finally ran out 6 points on the bounce to book her spot in the second round.
Talking to BBC Sport, she said: “I’m really proud I was able to dig deep. It was playing in my mind a little bit but I thought she upped her game and I tried to tell myself to stay composed and be aggressive.
“It’s a long tie-break so I told myself to pace myself and keep it together emotionally. I stuck to my gameplan and I was very composed.”
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2018 finalist Simona Halep took what has started to become a first-slam-of-the-year tradition of staking a nasty tumble, this time dinging her wrist, but she will be facing the Brit for the first time, acknowledging that all the expectation will be on her.
She told reporters: “I know her, but I didn’t play against her. I didn’t see her actually playing live. I know it’s a tough opponent, like everyone. I’m not ready in this moment to talk about because I just finished. I will have time tomorrow to talk to my team.
“As a top player, it’s an advantage and not that much an advantage because everyone wants to get you. But if you think about that, you don’t have time to think about yourself. I will try to focus on my game, to play what I want against her, and then we will see.”
Playing an unknown quantity comes with its own perils. Dart can swing free and the diminutive Brit can actually generate a lot of pace and hits powerfully deep and with precision, so she is in a perfect position to test Halep’s legendary scrambling skills.
Both play an aggressive game and can hit the poor yellow fluffies to within an inch of their bouncy lives and Dart could certainly give Halep a good test for a set or so. However, ultimately it will be very hard to see nothing but a win for one of the favourites here for the title.
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