‘Strong and calm’ Simona Halep holds off Elena Rybakina to end recent US Open fourth-round jinx

Simona Halep plays a shot

It was a titanic battle, but Simona Halep managed to survive the onslaught from Elena Rybakina to reach the US Open fourth round for the first time in five years.

The first set alone was more than an hour with the tie-breaker taking 18 minutes to complete, but Halep emerged with a 7-6 (13-11), 4-6, 6-3 win after two hours and 24 minutes on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

There were six breaks of serve in the opening set while Halep wasted six set points in the tie-breaker and Rybakina four before the Romanian edged it.

Both players again struggled to hold serve in the second set with the Kazakh player edging it three breaks to two as she took the match to a decider.

After being broken in the opening game, Halep won four games in a row and then held serve for the first of the match to claim the win.

“Definitely it was a very tough match, I knew before it was going to be very difficult because I played against her before. Elena is powerful and putting pressure on the opponent. I had to be strong, calm and fight at the end because I still have a chance to win,” the 12th seed, who reached the quarter-final in 2016, said.

“Everyday I am building confidence, it’s difficult to not play a match for four months then play at the highest level against top players but I am enjoying playing in front of a crowd, it’s always a pleasure. I missed everyone, thank you for coming.”

Up next is either fifth seed Elina Svitolina or Daria Kasatkina from Russia.

In the battle of the former world No 1s, Garbine Muguruza got the better of Victoria Azarenka as the Spaniard secured a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Muguruza will face reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova for a place in the quarter-final after the eighth-seeded Czech defeated lucky loser Kamilla Rakhimova from Russia 6-4, 6-2.