By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fifth seed Simona Halep blasted her way into the second round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday by demolishing Kirsten Flipkens 6-0 6-2 underlining her credentials as a potential grand slam winner.
Halep, who won her third WTA Tour title of the season at a U.S. Open tune-up in Montreal, carried her superb form into Flushing Meadows as she needed just one hour on a sun-splashed but almost vacant Arthur Ashe Stadium court to dismiss the 56th-ranked Belgian.
Flipkens, a former grand slam semi-finalist who advanced to the last 16 at the Rio Olympics, look headed to a humiliating double bagel defeat as Halep swept through the opening 11 games.
But with Halep serving for the match Flipkens finally broke her Romanian opponent before thrusting her arms into the air in mock triumph.
Flipkens would then hold serve for the first time but her late bit of resistance only prolonged the inevitable as Halep closed out the rout to setting up a second-round meeting with Czech Lucie Safarova.
"I was nervous to finish the match, 6-0, 5-0 match point against a top 50 player is not that bad," Halep told reporters. "Maybe I was scared that it's too good.
"Then I just wanted to do too much at that point, to hit maybe an ace, which is not my favorite shot.
"I tried too much and then I got a little bit upset with myself and I was rushing.
"But then I just said that I had to calm down and to finish the game."
Since losing her opening round match in her first visit to Flushing Meadows in 2010 Halep has made steady progress. She reached the semi-finals last year where she lost to eventual champion Flavia Pennetta.
Having reached the French Open final in 2014 Halep has been on the radar as future grand slam champion but was unsure if her time will come at this year's U.S. Open.
"I'm 100 percent ready, I feel good. I feel confident," declared Halep. "I wish I could win it, but is not easy to think about that.
"It's just the first round. I have many matches ahead, and the next round is going to be very tough.
"Maybe in my career I will win a grand slam. I'm not sure and I don't know if it's going happen but I'm here just to work hard, to get better, and to dream for it."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)