Halep beats Badosa to return to Madrid Open last 16

Mutua Madrid Open - Day Three
Getty Images
1 Comment

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 Magica 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 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.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

Getty Images
1 Comment

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

Getty Images
1 Comment

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.