By Rozanna Latiff
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – When Simona Halep pledged to donate A$200 ($137) to bushfire relief every time she gave her coach a hard time during her matches in Australia this month, she was ready for the final total to be a hefty sum.
However, her Australian coach Darren Cahill joked that Halep had earned a half-price discount on Thursday as she had reached the third round of the Australian Open with a fairly drama-free 6-2 6-4 win over British qualifier Harriet Dart.
“He (Cahill) told me actually that he cut everything at 50% because I won the match. I could finish the second set. So I’m in a good position,” the 28-year-old Romanian told reporters with a smile.
But before anyone started thinking that Halep was slashing her donation, she added: “Definitely I will donate everything I have done today.”
Halep cruised through her first set against Dart on Thursday but her focus wavered while serving for the match up 5-2 in the second.
When the 173rd-ranked Briton broke Halep, the twice Grand Slam champion muttered angrily towards Cahill.
Halep continued to struggle as she attempted to serve out for the win for a second time, slapping her thighs and berating herself after missing on her third match point. She finally clinched the victory on the fourth attempt.
“I was leading pretty well. But then, I don’t know what happened, I lost the focus a little bit, and she started actually to play free. She didn’t miss that much anymore.”
“But I’m happy that I could hold that last game. That was important,” said Halep, who next faces Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
Despite the loss, Dart’s performance was a marked improvement on her appearance at last year’s Open, when she failed to win a game during a first-round thrashing by Maria Sharapova.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by David Goodman and Pritha Sarkar)