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Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 8, 2021 Romania’s Simona Halep celebrates winning her first round match against Australia’s Lizette Cabrera REUTERS/Loren Elliott
A fit and firing Simona Halep started her bid for a first Australian Open title with an easy victory over Fil-Australian wildcard Lizette Cabrera on Monday.
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.
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.
Halep, a two-time Grand Slam winner, will once again be out to dash Australian hopes when she mets Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round on Wednesday.

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FILE – Lizette Cabrera of Australia returns a shot to Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the third round qualifying for to the US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 23, 2019 in New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — Facing a tall order, Filipino-Australian Lizette Cabrera goes for a major upset against world number two Simona Halep of Romania in the first round of the Australian Open Monday at Rod Laver Arena.
A wildcard entry, Cabrera, born to Filipino parents at Townsville, Australia, is making her fourth appearance in Melbourne. She has been competing in Grand Slams since 2017 but has yet to get past the opening round.
Halep, meanwhile, made the semifinals last year before losing to Spanish star Garbine Muguruza.
The former world number one, who ruled the 2019 Wimbledon and 2018 French Open, aims to add an Australian Open title to her Grand Slam collection.
The 23-year-old Cabrera, whose father Ronnie is from Pampanga and mother Dolly is from Basilan, is ranked at 140 in the WTA.
Cabrera, who is also set to compete in the women’s doubles event, has five ITF singles titles under her belt. Her highest ranking was at 119 in February of last year.

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