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WTA Tennis From Madrid • “Winning On Dirt Requires Work” • Halep Beats Mertens

Romanian player Simona Halep in action during her women’s singles second round match against Belgium’s Elise Mertens at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 08 May 2018. EPA-EFE/MARISCAL



By Richard Pagliario


•Winning on dirt requires work.•


Simona Halep continues to make clean sweeps look effortless.


The two-time defending champion extended one streak and extinguished another eliminating Elise Mertens, 6-0, 6-3, to surge into the Mutua Madrid Open round of 16.


The world No. 1 stretched her Madrid winning streak to 14 matches, while snapping Mertens’ 13-match winning streak that included title runs in Logano and Rabat.


Overpowered by CoCo Vandeweghe in Stuttgart last month, Halep arrived in Madrid intent on making a statement—and retaining her world No. 1 ranking.


Varying the height and spins of her shots, Halep has been overwhelming in a victory symphony.


The top seed has surrendered just four games in four sets. Halep hit 23 winners compared to 10 for her ailing opponent in raising her record to 24-4 on the season.


“I think it was a great match and I played really well,” Halep told the media in Madrid. “Of course maybe she didn’t play her best but she’s always tough to play against. It was a good match and a good start.”


It was a scary start for the Belgian as Halep reeled off eight straight games to open.


Ruthless Halep rampaged through the opening set in 21 minutes, hammering nine winners compared to three for Mertens in dispensing her second bagel of the week.


With her parents exhorting her from the support box, Halep scored fourth break to open the second set.


Belgian player Elise Mertens reacts during her women’s singles second round match against Romanian player Simona Halep at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 08 May 2018. EPA-EFE/MARISCAL

When Halep flagged forehand into net Mertens finally broke the shutout after 36 minutes of play, celebrating with a wide grin and fist pump toward her coach.


Serving at 3-5, Mertens fought off four match points.


Halep would not let her off the hook.


On the fifth match point, the Belgian double faulted ending a 72-minute match.


“I felt really well on court today,” Halep said. “I was moving great. Also the ball, I felt the game. I like to play on this court and always when I come back here I feel a little bit more relaxed. Maybe that’s why I can touch my best level every time I play. Hopefully I can keep it for the next round.”


The Romanian aims for her 15th straight win in the Spanish capital when she meets left-hander Kristyna Pliskova in the round of 16.


The Czech qualifier won 78 percent of her first-serve points in a 7-5, 6-2, victory over Spanish wild card Sara Sorribes Tormo.


The winner of the Halep vs. Kristyna Pliskova match will face either US Open champion Sloane Stephens or Stuttgart champion Karolina Pliskova for a semifinal spot.


Prague champion Petra Kvitova continued her impressive roll, outdueling Monica Puig, 6-3, 7-6 (8).


Kvitova saved a set point in the tie break scoring her seventh straight win.


The two-time Madrid champion increased her Madrid record to 22-6.


The 28-year-old Czech will face either Anett Kontaveit or Aliaksandra Sasnovich as she plays for her third trip to the quarterfinals in her last four Madrid appearances.

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