French Open 2015: Simona Halep beaten by nemesis Lucic-Baroni

(CNN)Grand slams in tennis are where legends are made. Besides having the ability, those who thrive must handle the occasion and conquer any nerves, brushing aside the pressure.

Simona Halep, based on her recent performances at majors, is struggling -- and it must be a worry for the Romanian.
Halep essentially admitted she cracked at the 2014 Australian Open playing in her maiden grand slam quarterfinal.
Subsequently teaming up with renowned coach Wim Fissette, Halep made quick progress, reaching the final at last year's French Open and the semis at Wimbledon.
    Mary Pierce: a French Open love story
    Mary Pierce: a French Open love story

      JUST WATCHED

      Mary Pierce: a French Open love story

    MUST WATCH

    Mary Pierce: a French Open love story 03:37
    Duel in the dirt: Serena vs. Maria
    Duel in the dirt: Serena vs. Maria

      JUST WATCHED

      Duel in the dirt: Serena vs. Maria

    MUST WATCH

    Duel in the dirt: Serena vs. Maria 02:01
    But thrust into the spotlight and facing heightened expectations, the world No. 3 now hasn't advanced past the quarterfinals at her last three majors, the nadir coming Wednesday at Roland Garros when Halep -- who surprisingly split with Fissette in the off-season -- was upset again by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, this time 7-5 6-1 in the second round.
    Winning a premier WTA Tour event like Indian Wells, as Halep did in March, is one thing, but triumphing at a grand slam is quite another, as the 23-year-old is discovering.
    A pattern is emerging, too, as it relates to Halep's defeats at grand slams -- fading badly.
    Since pushing Maria Sharapova to 6-4 in the third set of last year's pulsating French Open finale, Halep's four defeats at majors have all been in straight sets, with the second-set scores reading 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 and 6-1.
    "It's not about the pressure," Halep told reporters. "Just, I couldn't feel the game. I don't feel like 100% the ball, the game. So this is the reason. It's not the pressure, because I'm used to playing, and I have to defend points, so it's okay."
    So if not the pressure, what was it?
    Halep claimed a change of tactic was the issue -- trying to be more aggressive instead of sticking to her counterpunching ways.
    "I just wanted to hit too strong maybe, and to change the game is not good ... I started to hit the ball too strong, and that is not my style," she said. "I don't feel it, and I don't handle it. So I have to go back, you know, in my game and just to train again how I did till now."
    French Open: Is Nadal's reign over?
    French Open: Is Nadal's reign over?

      JUST WATCHED

      French Open: Is Nadal's reign over?

    MUST WATCH

    French Open: Is Nadal's reign over? 05:37
    French Open outsider's meteoric rise
    French Open outsider's meteoric rise

      JUST WATCHED

      French Open outsider's meteoric rise

    MUST WATCH

    French Open outsider's meteoric rise 01:10
    Lucic-Baroni hadn't beaten a player inside the top 50 this year, and in her previous tournament in Strasbourg, blew a set and 5-0 lead against American Madison Keys. But when the veteran Croatian saw Halep on the other side of the net, the world No. 70 likely wasn't overawed -- she eliminated her in the third round of last year's U.S. Open.
    In New York, Lucic-Baroni celebrated victory by raising her arms and dropping her racket, accompanied by a look that suggested, "What just happened?"
    Her celebration Wednesday was similar, but the 33-year-old's expression on this occasion suggested, "It happened again!"
    "When I saw the draw and I saw who I was playing second round, I knew it was going to be really tough," Lucic-Baroni told reporters after setting up a third-round clash with home hope Alize Cornet, the 29th seed.
    "I was going to have to play a great match again and back up sort of what I did at the U.S. Open because sometimes people say, 'Oh, it's one day, everything went in.' I don't look at it like that. I know I played really well.
    "I have been working really hard, and I knew today I had to play some great tennis. I was ready for it. I have been feeling really good also in practices. Even though my results haven't really been that great lately, I have been feeling great."
    A junior winner at the U.S. Open as a 14-year-old, Lucic-Baroni made the Wimbledon semifinals in 1999.
    For most of the last 15 years, however, she has been off the radar. She claimed she was abused by her father and suffered financial difficulties before moving to the U.S. with her mother.
    Other veterans prevail
    With Lucic-Baroni leading the way, it was a day for the unheralded veterans at Roland Garros.
    French wildcard Nicolas Mahut, 33, delighted the locals by upsetting 2014 semifinalist Ernests Gulbis; Gilles Muller, 32, completed a five-set comeback win over fellow 30-something Paolo Lorenzi; and Benjamin Becker, soon to be 34, defeated clay-court veteran Fernando Verdasco 10-8 in the fifth set.
    Before this year, Becker -- the last man to ever beat Andre Agassi -- was 0-6 at the French Open, tallying two sets. He will next take on Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who beat Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci in straight sets.
    Oh, another veteran -- one with a heftier reputation -- also progressed. Roger Federer, the second seed and men's record 17-time grand slam winner, eased past Spain's Marcel Granollers 6-2 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.
    The Swiss star, who is in the opposite half of the draw from main rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, will next play 87th-ranked Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.
    Federer's compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka also progressed, with the eighth seed earning a third-round match against American Steve Johnson.
    Sharapova, meanwhile, needed just 80 minutes to dispatch fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko 6-3 6-1 in their second-round clash.
    The two-time French Open champion will next face Australian 26th seed Sam Stosur, who was a beaten finalist in Paris in 2010 before winning her only grand slam at the following year's U.S. Open.
    Stosur, also a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2012, followed up her straight-sets victory over American Madison Brengle by thrashing young Frenchwoman Amandine Hesse 6-0 6-1.