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Halep Darts in to the third round

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“Definitely I will donate everything I have done today.”

When Simona Halep pledged to donate A$200 to bushfire relief every time she gave her coach a hard time during her matches in Australia this month, she was ready for the final total to be a hefty sum.

However, her Australian coach Darren Cahill joked that Halep had earned a half-price discount yesterday as she had reached the third round of the Australian Open with a fairly drama-free 6-2, 6-4 win over British qualifier Harriet Dart.

“He (Cahill) told me actually that he cut everything at 50 percent because I won the match. I could finish the second set. So I’m in a good position,” the 28-year-old Romanian said with a smile.

But before anyone started thinking that Halep was slashing her donation, she added: “Definitely I will donate everything I have done today.”

The Wimbledon champion is among a host of athletes who have pledged to donate funds in support of relief and recovery efforts for victims of Australia’s bushfire catastrophe.

Halep cruised through her first set against Dart but her focus wavered while serving for the match, up 5-2 in the second. When the 173rd-ranked Briton broke Halep, the twice Grand Slam champion muttered angrily towards Cahill.

Halep continued to struggle as she attempted to serve out for the win for a second time, slapping her thighs and berating herself after missing on her third match point. She finally clinched the victory on the fourth attempt.

“I was leading pretty well. But then, I don’t know what happened, I lost the focus a little bit, and she started actually to play free. She didn’t miss that much anymore.

“But I’m happy that I could hold that last game. That was important,” said Halep, who next faces Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.

Despite the loss, Dart’s performance was a marked improvement on her appearance at last year’s Open, when she failed to win a game during a first-round thrashing by Maria Sharapova.

Meanwhile, top seed Rafa Nadal continued his relentless progress through the draw yesterday, muscling his way into the third round with a commanding 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory over Argentine Federico Delbonis.

The Spaniard, hunting for a second Australian Open title 11 years after his first, has now lost only three sets in his last nine matches at Melbourne Park – all in his defeat to Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.

World No 76 Delbonis never looked like adding to that tally in the two and a half-hour contest on Rod Laver Arena, particularly as he was unable to muster up as much as a single break point against the 19-time Grand Slam champion.

The world No 1 was a little profligate with his break points, converting only three of 20, but still comfortably moved through to a meeting with compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta.

And Nick Kyrgios said he steered clear of a “very dark place” after suffering a minor meltdown during his 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over Gilles Simon in the second round.

The 23rd seed, Australia’s best hope of a men’s champion, appeared on course for a straightforward victory with a cushion of two sets and a break against the 35-year-old.

But things suddenly went awry when back-to-back double faults put the set back on service before another error set up a break for the Frenchman to win the third set.

“I definitely lost my way a little. He’s a tough competitor. He knows how to win matches I could have gone to a very dark place in the fourth set but I somehow put it away,” said Kyrgios, who will meet Russia’s Karen Khachanov next.

Reuters