Simona Halep beats Coco Gauff to enter Madrid Open quarters

MADRID: Former world No.1 Simona Halep recorded the 30th Madrid Open win of her career, overcoming American phenom Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-4 on Monday. Halep climbed back from 1-4 down in the second set to skip past Gauff in 77 minutes. “I felt like I played exactly what I had to play,” said the 30-year-old Halep, who is now 3-0 lifetime against Gauff.

“In the second set she changed a little bit, she was more aggressive and it wasn’t easy to adjust. But in the end I pushed her back and I did what I wanted to do.” The Romanian two-time Grand Slam champion takes a 2-1 head-to-head record into her last-eight showdown with the Ons Jabeur, who at No.10 in the world, is the highest-ranked player left in the draw.

Madrid has been a happy hunting ground for Halep, who clinched the winner’s trophy twice from a tournament record four final appearances in the Spanish capital. A break in the ninth game was enough for Halep to scoop the opening set in 28 minutes and she wiped away a three-game deficit in the second to reach the quarter-finals without dropping a set.

Over on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium, Jabeur joked with the crowd that they should consider supporting her in the next match against Halep, who knocked out their home favourite Paula Badosa in the previous round. “Just a reminder guys, Simona won against Paula and she’s Spanish so if she wins you have to cheer for me,” laughed Jabeur after her 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 success over reigning Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.

In a match that was interrupted by a sudden rain storm that flooded the court, Jabeur put on a show in the final game, flaunting her unique touch and pulling off impossible gets on her way to the last eight. The win came on a special occasion for the Tunisian as she celebrates Eid with the Muslim world.

“It’s two parties let’s say. Some people were telling me, ‘Listen this is Eid, so you have to win today’. So I was trying my best,” said the 27-year-old Jabeur. On the men’s side, Gael Monfils eased past 20-year-old Spanish wildcard Carlos Gimeno Valero 6-3, 6-0 to book a second-round meeting with world No.1 Novak Djokovic. It was a tough ATP main draw debut for Gimeno Valero, who was sent packing by the French former world No.6 in 55 minutes.

Monfils has never beaten Djokovic in 17 meetings but insists he is not obsessed with idea of trying to get the better of the Serb at least once. “It’s only for people, the people they really want me to (beat him),” said Monfils, who is contesting his first clay-court tournament of the season.

“The guy is better than me. Every match is an opportunity to win it. I try to take some lesson in everything, but I don’t really care. He can beat me tomorrow. He can beat me in Rome. He can beat at Roland Garros.

Maybe I will get once and that’s it. Who cares at the end?” Italian No.10 seed Jannik Sinner squandered a 5-2 lead in the opening set and fought back from the brink in the second en route to a 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over former French Open junior champion Tommy Paul of USA. Sinner saved three match points late in the second set and broke Paul as the American was serving for the victory to force a decider and advanced to the second round after three hours of intense battle.

His reward is a clash with Australian Alex de Minaur. Monte Carlo finalist and home favourite Alejandro Davidovich Fokina reached the second round 7-5, 6-3 over South African Lloyd Harris and faces No.12 seed Hubert Hurkacz or qualifier Hugo Dellien of Bolivia.