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Ash Barty beats No. 1 Simona Halep in Romanian’s tour return

2019 Sydney International - Day 4

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 09: Ashleigh Barty of Australia plays a forehand in her 2nd round match against Simona Halep of Romania during day four of the 2019 Sydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on January 09, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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SYDNEY -- Ashleigh Barty broke Simona Halep’s serve in the final game of the match to beat the No. 1-ranked Halep 6-4, 6-4 in a second-round match Wednesday at the Sydney International.

It was Halep’s first match since October after a lengthy layoff due to a herniated disc in her back. Halep won last year’s French Open and lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final.

The Australian served five aces, no double-faults and broke Halep three times to reverse two previous losses to Halep last August.

“I finally learned my lesson,” Barty said. “She gave me a belting in Montreal. I learned a little bit more in Cincinnati, but today I knuckled down and really thought about it and really gave myself a chance.

“The biggest thing, I believed that I could I win. We’re both out here on the same court. Just very happy I was able to come out and execute.”

The 27-year-old Halep will be at the Australian Open next week in Melbourne without a coach after parting ways with Australian mentor Darren Cahill, who can longer commit to Halep due to family reasons. Cahill had coached Halep for four years.

In a first-round match, 10th-seeded Elise Mertens beat qualifier Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2. In the second round, Timea Bacsinszky defeated Samantha Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

In men’s play, Alex de Minaur beat American qualifier Reilly Opelka 6-4 7-6 (4) in a match suspended by rain after just one game on Tuesday night to advance to the quarterfinals against fellow Australian Jordan Thompson.

“I think I got lucky today. Reilly’s an incredibly tough opponent,” de Minaur said. “I took care of my chances. I would have loved to get the break in the second. I had a couple of chances, but I did well to focus on my serve and I’m glad things went my way today.”

In other second-round matches, third-seeded Diego Schwartzman beat qualifier Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-3 and Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-1.