MADRID, Spain -- Two-time champion Simona Halep of Romania notched a second-round win over Great Britain’s Johanna Konta at the Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday, emerging victorious 7-5, 6-1 to move into the round of 16 in the Spanish capital for the fourth straight year.
"I feel good every time when I come to Madrid and I'm happy to be back and winning matches," Halep told the press, after her win. "It's a special place for me. Many friends are coming."
"It's nice to play in front of them and when you feel like home, you can play better," added Halep.
World No.3 Halep, who hoisted the trophy in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, claimed a tense, streaky opening set before easing to victory over Konta after one hour and 28 minutes of play. Halep picked up just her second win over Konta in their five WTA main-draw meetings.
3rd-seeded Halep played a clean match, with 19 winners to just 13 unforced errors, and broke Konta five times in 13 chances. World No.41 Konta, who reached her first-ever clay-court final at Rabat last week, blasted 24 winners but was undone by 34 unforced errors.
"Today, I think it was a good match," Halep continued. "Both of us played very well and, in the end, I was a bit stronger mentally and I found a rhythm. So it was a good day and it is a good tournament for me always."
— WTA (@WTA) May 7, 2019
Halep will now take on Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova in the third round. Kumova has clinched her spot in the round of 16 after two consecutive Top 30 wins, upsetting No.16 seed Julia Goerges and Carla Suarez Navarro in succession. It will be the first meeting between Halep and Kuzmova.
"We haven't played against each other so I don't have the feeling how [Kuzmova is] playing," said Halep. "I will check a little bit, I have enough time. It's a big challenge always when I play with someone that I never played before. So I just want to see what I have to do against her. But the main thing is to focus on myself, on my game, and if I feel it, then I have a better chance."
It was Konta who started the match up a break, as the Brit cracked a forehand winner to take a 2-1 lead. Good deliveries helped Konta cruise through two easy service games to ease to 4-2, and the unseeded player had a break point to reach 5-2 before Halep regained control of that service game to hold for 4-3.
At this juncture, the potency of Halep’s groundstrokes improved, and she broke Konta with ease to level the set at 4-4. At 5-4, the Romanian crunched a forehand crosscourt passing winner to reach double set point, before Konta slammed two outstanding serves to get back to deuce, eventually reaching 5-5.
The length and importance of the games continued to rise as Halep fended off three break points to eke out a hold for 6-5. In the next game, Halep reached a third and fourth set point, but Konta’s aggressive play erased those chances. However, a Halep backhand down the line gave her a fifth set point, and a wide Konta backhand finally ceded the set to the Romanian.
— WTA (@WTA) May 7, 2019
"[Konta] started very, very well and she was hitting the lines and very deep," Halep admitted. "It was tough to return. But I knew that I have just to calm down and wait for the proper moment and just change something, which I did, and at that moment, at 4-3, I changed the tactic a little bit, I played more in the middle. And I think it was the best choice in that moment.
"And then after I took that game, an important game, at 6-5, in the first set, I had more confidence that I feel the game, I feel what I have to play against her and I'm dominating. So, that made me a little bit tougher."
After such a topsy-turvy opener in which she had her chances, Konta lost momentum as the second set began. Halep, by contrast, was full of confidence, and she jumped out to an early 2-0 lead by breaking the Brit at love, punctuating that game with a backhand return winner.
Halep won 15 straight points to get to triple break point for a 4-0 lead, and though a volley winner by Konta stopped that streak to save one of those chances, the depth of Halep’s groundstrokes persisted, and she took that game to open up the double-break advantage.
Konta did get one break back for 4-1, but Halep was unfazed, reclaiming the double-break lead for 5-1. The Romanian had little trouble serving out the match, reaching double match point after a long return by Konta, and finishing off the match with an error-forcing forehand.