Mirror, mirror: Halep conquers her greatest rival

Simona Halep's greatest opponent has always been the one that confronts her in the mirror when she wakes each morning.

On Monday all the ingredients that add up to those on-court meltdowns presented after she squandered two second-set service breaks.

As Halep said after winning through to the quarterfinals in an eventual victory over 16th seed Elise Mertens, she can still "get crazy" on court.

From 3-0 up, Halep would squander those multiple breaks and at 4-4 was beginning to glare at coach Darren Cahill with the kind of withering exchanges that cost her $200 a pop for Australian fire relief.

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Ten minutes later she had regained her composure, found a way to break Mertens again after five break points, and closed out the match 6-4 6-4.

If the fourth seed isn't going to beat herself, who else will on the way to a potential finals berth against world No.1 Ash Barty?

Next up is No.28 seed Anett Kontaveit, with the 2018 French Open and reigning Wimbledon champion still admitting to those fraught moments but clearly better equipped to overcome them.

"I got a little nervous at 4-3 but I was strong enough to finish the match," said a relieved Halep.

"I had to calm myself down, when I get a little nervous I get crazy on court. I had to stay cool to get the energy from the box. Darren is counting those looks but it's for a good cause. He says at the end of the tournament he will tell me (how much I owe) so I just keep it relaxed.

"I had it in my head when she came back to pay attention on every ball and mentally I did a great job today at four all with those points. In the end I got the game and served very well in the last game and I feel like my best match since I got here. I like how I feel."

Halep professes to be oblivious to the seeds falling around her, instead planning some retail therapy and another walk through Melbourne's streets between matches instead of watching rivals play.

But if Sunday's CBD wander was interrupted by Australia Day festivities, she must know the draw is as clear as an eight-lane freeway at midnight.

Coach Cahill says in past years Halep might have dropped her bundle, thrilled she now has the capacity to regain her composure mid-match.

Cahill won't get ahead of himself, but is aware Barty's methodical advance on the opposite side of the draw could add up to a mouth-watering contest.

"I am Australian. Everything Ash has done in the last two or three years has been inspiring for all of us. It's not just what she has done between the lines. She is what we Australians are all about. Work hard, give it your best shot, be really humble in success. If I am lucky enough to be coaching against her on Saturday that would be a good problem to have."



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