Tennis

Simona Halep beats second-ranked Paula Badosa, returns to Madrid Open last 16

Simona Halep beats second-ranked Paula Badosa, returns to Madrid Open last 16
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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. »

Badosa, at a career-high ranking, converted only one of her seven break points against Halep. The Spanish player 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 she 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.

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« 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 player 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, where 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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