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Former champion Simona Halep gallops into the quarter-finals



Simona Halep played like she had an early dinner reservation in La Bodega Negra, apparently Soho’s worst kept secret. The two times Grand Slam winner and Wimbledon champion in 2019 scorched through her match against Spain’s Paula Badosa 6-1, 6-2 in 60 minutes to earn herself a place in the quarter-finals.

The smart mixed play of Halep harked back to her greatest Grand Slam win when the Romanian star beat Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 back in 2019 in front of an astonished Centre Court. The final lasted only 56 minutes, four minutes less than Badosa, with the then 27-year-old committing just three unforced errors in the match and dropping just one set in the tournament.

“Yeah, was tough match, tough day,” said Badosa. “I think a day to forget. Yeah, I don’t have anything else to say. I don’t know. I think everything went wrong. She played a good match. But I want to talk about me. I think it wasn’t my day today. I tried. I tried my best. I wasn’t lucky enough. Yeah, a day to forget, as I said.”

Badosa had never won against a top 20 player in a Grand Slam, her defeat putting Halep into the quarter-final, where she meets Amanda Anisimova, the world number 25 who knocked teenager Coco Gauff out of the draw a couple of days ago. That match will be Halep’s experience and guile against a hard-hitting 20-year-old who will come into the contest swinging from the back court.

While Halep hardly got a workout, the young American, who lives in Florida, hopes to go one better than she did last month in Paris, where she made it to the semi-finals at Roland Garros. It took Anisimova just 14 minutes longer to beat Harmony Tan 6-2, 6-3 than Halep to beat Bedosa. It was Tan who sent 40-year-old Serena Williams packing in the first round.

Since the abrupt ending of Iga Swiatek’s winning streak by 32-year-old Alize Cornet, the top half of the draw has entirely opened up, with both Halep and Anisimova both fancying their chances of making it to the semi-final, while Kazak Elena Rybakina and Australian Ajla Tomljanovic also going toe to toe in the next round.

The 23-year-old Russian-born Rybakina at least is not suffering from any confidence issues.

“I never compared myself with anyone. I just know that I have this gift,” she said. “I’m tall and I play really fast. It’s effortless, I would say. It’s not something I’m working in the gym or something. This is my weapon, and I’m just trying to use it as much as I can.”

Halep won all of her seven service games in her match for no loss and was winning around 90 per cent of her first serves. She conceded just one break point, which Badosa could not take, and earned 11 break points on the Spaniard’s serve taking five of those.

“It means a lot that I’m back in a quarter-finals after I struggled so much with injuries and self-confidence,” said Halep. “I feel I have power on court. So I feel like – how should I say – I feel good to play tennis and I feel good to be on the court. I think this helps me to believe more and to be able to do my best tennis.”

Halep has suffered both injury and a confidence crisis, one triggering the other.

“When they come together, it’s really difficult,” said the former champion. “But, yeah, it started with the injury, so I was not able to play for three, four months. Then I lost also the confidence, the belief that I can be good again, an the top. And I struggled like a long period.

“But now it’s past. I’m here. I’m playing well. I’m feeling good on court. So this is the most important thing, and I just want to focus on that. I’m pretty emotional as a person. I take it 100 per cent. I’m really happy. I’m enjoying the time. I’m enjoying what’s happening right now.”

Thirty-year-old Halep beat her next opponent, Anisimova, in a tournament in Bad Homburg, Germany two weeks ago. There is 10 years in their age difference.



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