The stars are aligning for Simona Halep with the former Melbourne Park finalist cruising into the round of 16 as the Australian Open draw opens up in front of her.
Halep made light work of Danka Kovinic in her third-round clash at John Cain Arena, thrashing the Montenegrin 6-2 6-1 to reach the second week for a fifth consecutive year.
After an injury-ravaged 2021, Halep kicked off the year in style, triumphing in the Melbourne Summer Set and is yet to drop a set in her three matches at the Open.
Admitting she'd been "super agitated and super nervous on court" last year, a more "stable" Halep believed she was in her best form for a while.
Her run shapes as a well timed one, with third seed Garbine Muguruza and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit both making unexpected second-round departures from Halep's quarter of the draw.
"I feel great physically, first of all. Mentally I'm confident and also strong, I would say," Halep said.
"Feeling the game. Feeling joy out there. That helps me to be positive and to be confident that I have a chance every time I step on the court. Playing well.
"I feel I'm in a good spot. I really trust that I can play good tennis here.
"I feel fresh. I feel that the pressure is off. I feel also that I have expectations from myself, but they are good expectations because I have worked a lot in the off-season.
"I have no injuries. That helps me to be in a good spot mentally and also with confidence."
Halep fought through a fierce start from Kovinic to power through the opening set in 29 minutes, then the second in 35.
Wearing a red dress for the first time since her 2018 run to the final, Halep has had just three hours and 39 minutes of court time across three rounds - a far less arduous opening week.
"Physically is much better. I have to admit that," the former No.1 said.
"I remember 2018 when after the first week I was dead. Now I feel better."
Halep expected a tougher assignment against Alize Cornet in the fourth round, after the French veteran fought back from a set and 4-1 down against 29th seed Tamara Zidansek to win 4-6 6-4 6-2.
"It's always been tough match against Alize," she said.
"I expect actually a tough battle. She's fighting till the end and she never gives up. I am the same, so hopefully will be a nice match."
Australian Associated Press
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