Two-time Mutua Madrid Open champion Simona Halep got her 2022 campaign in the Spanish capital off to a flying start, easing past Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-3 on Manolo Santana Stadium.
Under the roof on a rainy Thursday, former World No.1 Halep executed a 68-minute victory over an opponent who had defeated her on multiple occasions in the past. With the victory, Halep edged ahead to a 3-2 lead in her head-to-head with Zhang.
Halep has reached the Mutua Madrid Open final a tournament-record four times, winning the title in 2016 and 2017 and finishing as runner-up in 2014 and 2019.
Newly under the tutelage of Patrick Mouratoglou, Halep was precise against Zhang, who had stunned the Romanian in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open after previously being 0-13 in Grand Slam first-round matches.
Zhang matched Halep in winners but the former World No.1 kept her unforced error count much lower, with 17 to Zhang’s 39. Halep converted all five of her break points to take the swift victory.
Halep could face No.2 seed Paula Badosa in the second round, if Badosa can get past Veronika Kudermetova in a tricky opener next on Manolo Santana Stadium.
More to come…