Simona Halep, of Romania, returns the ball against Paula Badosa of Spain during their match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
MADRID — Simona Halep played some of her best tennis at the Madrid Open again in defeating home crowd favorite Paula Badosa in straight sets to reach the last 16 on Saturday for the seventh time in 11 appearances.
The two-time Madrid Open champion had 21 winners as she defeated No. 2-ranked Badosa 6-3, 6-1 on the Caja Mágica center court.
“I knew that I have to be for every point focused and to give everything I have, and I did it great today,” the 21st-ranked Halep said. “I’m really pleased with the way I played.”
Halep will next face Coco Gauff in the third round. The 18-year-old American defeated two-time French Open quarterfinalist Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 after converting six of her 21 break points.
Badosa, at a career-high ranking, converted only one of her seven break points against Halep. The Spaniard broke through on home soil last year with a run to the Madrid semifinals as a 62nd-ranked wild card.
“She’s played at a really good level, all of her merit, and I haven’t played very well,” Badosa said. “I missed absolutely everything. That’s why I was only able to win four games. … At the important moments, the ball fell her side, and at the end of the day we just have to give her an applause. That’s why she’s a champion in this sport.”
Halep won consecutive titles in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, and was runner-up in 2014 and 2019. She has 29 main draw wins, behind only the 31 she has at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Only three-time champion Petra Kvitova has won more main draw matches than Halep in Madrid, with 32.
“I’m happy to be on court, and this is the most important thing at this age,” the 30-year-old Halep said. “I improved a lot in these four weeks, and I’m still looking to improve more. I will take this match as, you know, a boost and confidence, because I played with one of the best players in the world.”
Unseeded in Madrid for the first time in nine years, Halep hadn’t played since Indian Wells in March. The Romanian has been showing a more aggressive game under new coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
“I know is the way I want to play, we want to play,” she said. “We talked about it, and I trust 100% what Patrick tells me about the game. So I’m really happy and pleased that actually I can do it on court, because it’s different when you practice and with the official match. So the fact I could do it in the official match with one of the best players in the world gives me confidence.”
Another former No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, rallied past Tamara Zidansek 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours, 20 minutes in her first match since the third round in Miami, when she retired for personal reasons.
Azarenka hadn’t won consecutive matches since the Australian Open. The two-time Grand Slam champion, seeded 15th in Madrid, last made it to the round of 16 in 2016.
Eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur defeated Varvara Gracheva 7-5, 0-6, 6-4, and Belinda Bencic beat Karolina Muchova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. American Amanda Anisimova also needed three sets to rally past Petra Martic.
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