WATCH: Simona Halep defeats Coco Gauff in the third round of the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open

There's a "new Simona" on tour. That's the way former No. 1 Simona Halep described herself as she made her way into the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals without dropping a set.

Competing in her first tournament since March, Halep played a terrific match blasting by new No. 2 Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-1 in the second round, and halted No. 14 seed Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-4 on Monday to reach the last eight.

"I felt great on court. I'm happy to be on court, and this is the most important thing at this age," the 30-year-old told press in Madrid after defeating Badosa. "I think I improved a lot in these four weeks, and I'm still looking to improve more. I will take this match as, you know, a boost and confidence, because I played with one of the best players in the world."

That's a big change from when she arrived in Madrid. The two-time champion had been sidelined since picking up a leg injury during her semifinal defeat to Iga Swiatek at Indian Wells.

"I was in doubts when I arrived there," Halep said. "I didn't know how much I can play and how good I can play still. But now I'm a different person. I feel more confident. I feel that the pleasure helps me to work harder, to work more. I spend more time on the court.

"I think it's everything coming from inside, and at this point I feel happy with myself. I feel that I have the chance to play good tennis again. Actually, it's my No. 1 priority in this moment, and I feel again that fire. I think it helps me to wake up in the morning and to go to give everything I have."


Halep had been sidelined since March after suffering a leg injury at Indian Wells.

Halep had been sidelined since March after suffering a leg injury at Indian Wells.

It's also a big change from Halep's recent doubts about her career and whether to keep playing. The two-time Grand Slam champion admitted she had considered retiring when she experienced another leg injury that sidelined her during 2021—a feeling compounded by the effects of the pandemic and the current war in Ukraine.

"The world is not stable, I have that feeling. So it’s not easy to handle, and anxiety can bring you down," she was quoted as saying before the start of the tournament. "With the pandemic I was super scared at the start, now the war I was super scared at the start. But it’s something we cannot control...

“We’re able to play tournaments [again] and to do what we love, which we’re very lucky about… We should profit and just enjoy it."


Along with that new attitude is a new coach. Halep had been training at Patrick Mouratoglou's academy this season, and during Miami the former coach of Serena Williams told her he could join her team. Following Mouratoglou's suggestion, Halep says she is playing more aggressively.

"We started collaboration with the present, and we build something on this. I just want to take everything I have now, and his ideas and the way he sees my game, I like it. I started to believe more and more that I'm able to do it," she said.

"So I will give my best. I trust him 100 percent. So we will see how good I can do, how good I can do these things that he's [told] me.”

Halep won Madrid in 2016 and 2017, but is currently ranked No. 21 and is unseeded in this week's field. She'll face No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.