Mertens sends Halep packing; Sinner, Rublev reach 2nd round of Madrid Open - GulfToday

Mertens sends Halep packing; Sinner, Rublev reach 2nd round of Madrid Open

Elise Mertens

Elise Mertens returns to Simona Halep during their Madrid Open match on Tuesday. Associated Press

World number three Simona Halep was dumped out of the Madrid Open on Tuesday, losing 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the last 16 to Belgian Elise Mertens, while Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev won their opening men’s matches.

Romania’s Halep, who won the Madrid title in 2016 and 2017, is still yet to reach a WTA Tour final this season and this was her earliest exit in the Spanish capital since a 2015 first-round loss.

Halep had sailed through the first two rounds on the Madrid clay without dropping a set but she ended up second best in a match which yielded 15 breaks of serve. Halep served 10 double faults in the match, Mertens nine.

Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one, was twice a break up in the final set at 3-1 and 4-3 but finally succumbed after just over two and a half hours of play.

In the quarter-finals, 13th seed Mertens will meet her doubles partner, Belarusian seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka, who dispatched American Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-2 in just 52 minutes.

World number one Ashleigh Barty edged the battle of the French Open champions on Monday as she beat Poland’s Iga Swiatek to reach the Madrid Open quarter-finals.

Barty triumphed at Roland Garros in 2019 before Swiatek sprung another surprise by clinching her own first major title in Paris a year later.

Both players will be among the favourites at the French Open next month but Barty’s credentials gained an extra boost in Madrid, where she defeated Swiatek 7-5, 6-4.

The Australian will now face three-time Madrid champion Petra Kvitova for a place in the semis, after Kvitova beat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

In the men’s draw, Italian teenager Sinner booked his place in the second round when his opponent Guido Pella withdrew with a leg injury in the second set while trailing 6-2 4-4.

World number 18 Sinner barely gave Pella time to breathe in the first set, with an early break of service taking him to 3-0.

Another break saw the 19-year-old take the set.

Pella responded in fiery fashion, opening up a 4-1 lead in the second before feeling discomfort in his right leg which, after receiving medical attention on court, ultimately led to his retirement.

Sinner, the Miami Masters runner-up, will face Alexei Popyrin in the second round after the Australian beat German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 7-6 (7/4).

Sixth seed Rublev, meanwhile, had to work hard before becoming the first man through to the third round, battling for two hours and 20 minutes with American Tommy Paul before coming through 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4.

The in-form Rublev has reached at least the quarter-finals in all of his previous eight tournaments this season. Former Madrid Open runner-up Kei Nishikori edged out Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.

But Canadian pair Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov both suffered early defeats.

Auger-Aliassime, the 15th seed, lost 6-1, 6-4 to Norway’s Casper Ruud in the opening round, while 11th seed Shapovalov was beaten 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 by Kazakh Alexander Bublik in the last 32.

World number 10 Matteo Berrettini saw off his fellow Italian Fabio Fognini, winning 6-3, 6-4 to book a third-round spot.

Pregnant Strycova hangs up racket at 35: Meanwhile, Czech doubles specialist Barbora Strycova, who announced her first pregnancy in March, said on Tuesday she was retiring from tennis, hoping for one last game after she gives birth.

Currently ranked second in doubles and 52nd in singles, Strycova, 35, won the Wimbledon doubles title with Hsieh Su-wei in 2019 and reached the singles semi-finals there the same year, her best Grand Slam results ever.

“I want to play one more game with an audience,” the former world number one-ranked doubles player told reporters in Prague.

“I’m bidding farewell to my career and I don’t expect to get back to the tour, but I would like to say goodbye to the fans,” said Strycova who has her eyes on a farewell trip to the All England Club in 2022.

“Wimbledon would be a dream, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll do something here in the Czech Republic,” she said.


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