MATCH POINT: Halep rolls in Madrid opener

Competing for the first time with new coach Patrick Mouratoglou in her box, Simona Halep kicked off her Mutua Madrid Open campaign in style Thursday.

Halep dismissed Zhang Shuai, 6-2, 6-3, in 68 minutes in improving to 27-8 at the 1000-level event. The 30-year-old has reached the final four times here, winning back-to-back titles in 2016-17.

“I stayed focused, aggressive, strong on my legs and I just did what I had to do. It was a good match, in my opinion,” Halep said in an interview on-court afterwards.

“I always have a great feeling playing here in Madrid.”

The former world No. 1 broke serve in the opening game when Zhang pushed a backhand long, and never looked back from there. The Chinese No. 1 sprayed 19 unforced errors in the opening set in quickly falling behind.


Halep is seeking her second title of the 2022 season (Melbourne Summer Series 1)

Halep is seeking her second title of the 2022 season (Melbourne Summer Series 1)

Zhang had a chance to get back on serve with a break point at 3-4 in the second set, and looked in prime position to level when setting up the point with her inside-out forehand. But a miss off that same shot when replying to Halep’s defensive lob ultimately did her in, and the Romanian sprinted to the finish line.

Halep, who went five for five on break points, celebrated her first match win since advancing to the semifinals of Indian Wells on March 17 against Petra Martic.

Countrywoman Sorana Cirstea was less fortunate, as she was eliminated by local hopeful Nuria Parrizas-Diaz. The Spaniard advanced, 6-4, 6-2.

Other early winners included No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur and Czech Karolina Muchova. Jabeur eased past Jasmine Paolini, 7-6 (9), 6-1, once taking the opening tiebreaker on her sixth set point. Muchova rallied past Zheng Qinwen, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, after two hours and 25 minutes.