WATCH: Halep played arguably her best tennis since her pre-pandemic peak, striking only two unforced errors in the second set against Badosa.

Simona Halep put on a command performance in her first meeting with newly-minted world No. 2 Paula Badosa, dismantling the Spaniard, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the Mutua Madrid Open’s third round.

“I feel great," she said on court. "I feel like I played good tennis and I’m really happy about it. She’s very good at this moment; she’s No. 2 in the world so she was confident and playing great, but I believed I’d have my chance, so I gave everything I had.”

A two-time champion at the Caja Magica, Halep missed a month of action due to injury following the BNP Paribas Open—where she reached the semifinals—but hasn’t missed a beat in her first event since hiring Patrick Mouratoglou, rolling past Badosa in 76 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium.

For her part Badosa, who earned her career-high rank last week following a run to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix semifinals, predicted a tough clash with Halep despite putting down an impressive performance of her own against Veronika Kudermetova to begin her Madrid campaign. A semifinalist last year, Badosa used this event as a springboard for a successful clay season in 2021, one that culminated with a maiden major quarterfinal in Paris.

The 24-year-old will need to find that spark elsewhere on the road to Roland Garros: she had precious few answers for Halep’s superior play and too often found herself flat-footed in the face of the Romanian’s pristine angles and athleticism.

“The courts and the public support me always. I have a great atmosphere every time I play. It’s really good to have the energy of the crowd.”

Unseeded in Madrid, Halep is still ranked outside the Top 20 thanks to the leg injury that ruled her out of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon last year. The WTA Race rankings tell a different story. When only considering results from 2022, Halep is firmly in the Top 10 on the strength of her title in Melbourne and semifinal finishes in Dubai and Indian Wells. Four sets into her week in Madrid, the two-time major champion appears poised to move even higher.

Halep, who famously credits the Mutua Madrid Open for a career-revitalizing wild card that catalyzed a breakthrough 2013 season, broke in the opening game and dug out of a 0-40 lead on her own serve to consolidate. Though Badosa broke back at her next opportunity, the former world No. 1 edged through a pivotal seventh game to run off the next eight in a row—finding herself up a set and 5-0.


The two-time Mutua Madrid Open champion was taking on Badosa for the first time, and edged through in just over an hour.

The two-time Mutua Madrid Open champion was taking on Badosa for the first time, and edged through in just over an hour.

In the midst of all the carnage, Badosa called the trainer to address a neck and shoulder injury, an issue known to hinder the No. 2 seed in the past—most brutally during a second-round loss to Varvara Gracheva at the US Open.

As coach Mouratoglou, fresh off a decade-long stint with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, cheered alongside Halep’s team, Badosa was forced to save two match points as she narrowly avoided a bagel. Halep withstood the hometown favorite’s brave last stand, saving a break point to ultimately serve out the victory on her third match point.

“It’s a pleasure and an honor to have Patrick in my box as a coach," Halep said. "We are working very hard on some things and as I see, I’m playing well every match. I’m just focusing on getting better and getting stronger.”

The command performance featured 21 winners to just 14 unforced errors from Halep—only two of which came in the second set—and relentless intensity on key points, breaking serve five times while saving six of seven break points faced against her.

Standing between the Romanian and a sixth Madrid quarterfinal will be either Coco Gauff or Yulia Putintseva, who close out play on Santana Stadium later Saturday evening.

Earlier in the day, fans saw a slew of thrilling three-setters from the likes of Belinda Bencic, who knocked out Karolina Muchova, and Amanda Anisimova, who rallied from a set down against Petra Martic.

The biggest comeback of the day belongs to Czech youngster Marie Bouzkova, who saved a match point to post a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 scoreline over Dayana Yastremska. In her last Madrid appearance, Bouzkova took a nasty fall in a meeting with compatriot Petra Kvitova, incurring a hand injury that derailed her clay-court season. A year later, she is a win away from her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal since her 2019 breakthrough in Canada, and will face fellow qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Round of 16.