Simona Halep shrugged off her recent injury anguish to advance to the third round of the US Open for the first time in five years with a straight-sets win over Kristina Kucova.
The former world number one and two-time grand-slam champion had been forced to miss this year’s French Open and Wimbledon with a calf injury and a series of other concerns.
But despite playing with heavy strapping on her thigh, Halep was in dominant form as she swept aside the Slovakian lucky loser 6-3 6-1.
Halep said in her on-court interview: “I have to admit I am more confident, because before the tournament I was a little bit worried having not played for five or six months.
“It’s always tough to handle the pressure but I think I did well. It’s great to be back at the US Open and to play and win some matches.”
Halep broke her opponent in the first game of the match but a series of uncharacteristic errors enabled Kucova to haul back to 3-3 before Halep took control.
The Romanian won nine of the next 10 games to win a match that was moved to Arthur Ashe court following the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka’s scheduled opponent Olga Danilovic due to injury.
Danilovic, 20, had qualified for the main draw at Flushing Meadows and then won her first-round match with a straight-sets triumph over American Alycia Parks.
Osaka beat Marie Bouzkova in the first round on Tuesday in her first grand-slam appearance since she pulled out of the French Open in May.
The third seed, who subsequently lost in the third round of the Tokyo Olympics, is due to face either Kaia Kanepi or Leylah Fernandez in the third round.
Second seed Aryna Sabalenka sustained a hand injury after falling in the first set of her 6-3 6-1 win over Tamara Zidansek, raising questions over her ability to recover in time for her third-round match against Danielle Collins on Friday.
“I was really scared that I broke it (my hand),” said Sabalenka. “It was really painful. I’m really happy that I could finish this match, and I have an extra day to see what’s going on. I’m really hoping that I will be able to play on Friday.”
Grand slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza set up a third-round meeting after the pair secured straight-sets wins over Jasmine Paolini and Andrea Petkovic respectively.
Teenager Coco Gauff was beaten in the all-American clash against Sloane Stephens.
Stephens, the 2017 champion who has slipped to 66 in the rankings, ran out a comprehensive 6-4 6-2 winner against the 21st seed.
Stephens, who has known Gauff since she was a child, said. “I love Coco, everyone knows that and I said that to her the end of the match.
“I feel so lucky to have seen her grow up since she was eight years old and I’m really proud of her.”