Halep eases injury fears in straight-sets win

·2-min read
A fit and firing Simona Halep started her bid for a first Australian Open title with an easy victory over local wildcard Lizette Cabrera

A fit and firing Simona Halep started her bid for a first Australian Open title with an easy victory over local wildcard Lizette Cabrera on Monday, declaring she has adjusted to the "much faster" courts at Melbourne Park.

The number two seed required strapping and was hampered by a lower back injury in the warm-up Gippsland Trophy, but moved with ease in the 6-2, 6-1 romp in 59 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

"I feel good, my body is fit," said the Romanian, who hit 14 winners.

"It feels great to be back in Melbourne."

Halep, whose seven-year streak in the top 10 is the longest active run among women, broke serve in the opening game and then overwhelmed 23-year-old Cabrera, who has been unable to win a match at her home Slam in four attempts.

The 2018 French Open champion generally prefers slower, higher-bouncing surfaces, but insisted she was content with the quickness of the courts that had been a talking point among players in the tournament's build-up.

"It is much faster but I have gotten used to it because I've been here for 10 days," she said.

"I feel good here on the court even if it's fast."

Halep, a two-time Grand Slam winner, will once again be out to dash Australian hopes when she meets Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round on Wednesday.

"She's a good player but I will just focus on myself. It will be a tough battle," she said of the clash with the world number 69.

Halep, 29, is seeking a maiden triumph at Melbourne Park having fallen short to Caroline Wozniacki in the 2018 decider.

She was left stunned last year after a straight-sets loss to Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals.

tl/mp/th/jfx