ROME, Italy - Mutua Madrid Open champion Simona Halep won her eighth straight match on Thursday at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, knocking out Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem winner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
"I feel great," Halep said after the match. "I feel my game, I feel strong on court, my legs are strong, mentally strong, so I feel good on court."
Halep struggled for health and form to start the season, but the former French Open junior champion has settled impressively since setting foot on clay, reaching the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and winning her second straight title in Madrid.
"I think it's because of the confidence. I feel every shot I hit; I feel every ball. Doesn't matter where I am on court. I just feel good, and I have confidence that I can return the ball pretty well."
Avenging her Stuttgart loss to Laura Siegemund to start her week in Rome, the 2015 semifinalist appeared on course for a seamless victory against Pavlyuchenkova, who had won just one set in their previous six matches.
But the young Russian has enjoyed her most consistent year yet, reaching the Australian Open and BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals before winning back-to-back titles at the Abierto Monterrey Afirme on hardcourts and her aforementioned Rabat crown on clay.
The No.12 seed engaged the Romanian in a break-fest to start the second set, eventually getting the upper hand to force a decider.
"I think in the second set I changed a little bit and I played faster and flatter. She likes this game. So she was putting some power on her shots and was more difficult for me to return."
Hoping to extend her then-seven-match winning streak, Halep hit another gear in the final set, clinching the win without losing another game.
"It's good that I could change in the third set, and I changed exactly to what I did in the first set and that went very well for me, opening the court and just taking off a little bit the power."
In the end, the No.6 seed struck 17 winners to just nine unforced errors; while Pavlyuchenkova hit more winners, she also made more errors with a -11 differential (26 to 37).
Up next for Halep is an on-fire Anett Kontaveit, who backed up her win over World No.1 Angelique Kerber with a 6-1, 6-1 win over in-form Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
"I played in Miami against her. It was not easy. It was a difficult match," she said of her 6-3, 6-0 win over the Estonian at the Miami Open.
"But I was strong at that moment. I don't know how she plays on clay court. Maybe I will watch a little bit.
"We are in the quarterfinals, so everyone has to play good tennis. I expect a tough one tomorrow, but I definitely think that I have my chance, even if I don't know her on clay."