INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — It has been a difficult week for No. 3 Simona Halep, after news broke on Monday that her cousin Nicica Arghir, 29, was found dead from an apparent suicide in his home in Constanta, Romania. She canceled her practice later that day and requested out of her pre-tournament media obligations on Wednesday. But on Friday, Halep overcame a shaky start to defeat No. 106 Daria Gavrilova 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 and advance to the third round to play Varvara Lepchenko.
Halep dedicated the win to her cousin. "It's a painful situation for everyone, for me and for the family, for my family," Halep said after the match. "I just wanted to play this tournament because he loved tennis. He played many years tennis. So I just decided to stay here, because I think it was a little bit easier for me to pass this situation."
"It's hard to speak about this, and I just want to dedicate this match to him, because he loved tennis and he was very talented."
After winning the Dubai Championships last month, Halep withdrew from the Qatar Open with a rib injury. She returned home to undergo treatment and says she is pain-free. She only began serving again when she arrived to Indian Wells for the tournament and not surprisingly, she struggled with her serve on Friday. She hit seven double-faults and needed some time to shake the rust off her game. But something clicked early in the second set and Halep was able to cruise to victory.
Asked how she was able to complete the comeback, Halep cited her listless 6-4, 6-0 loss to Ekaterina Makarova in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.
"In Australia I lost that match against Makarova," she said. "I didn't fight till the end. I was very upset after the match, and I said that that one is the last match in my career that I'm not fighting."