Former world No.1 Simona Halep has stepped up her French Open preparations with a 6-4 6-4 victory over American Coco Gauff to march into the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.
Halep, who won the French Open in 2018 and the Madrid title twice, is unseeded after her ranking fell last year following a series of injuries but she has yet to drop a set in the tournament this year.
The Romanian was at her aggressive best on the red clay on Monday, but was unable to break until the American teenager made a series of unforced errors to go down 5-4.
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Halep, now ranked 21 in the world, served out the set but it only fired up Gauff as the 18-year-old suddenly grew in confidence. Finding success at the net she raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set.
The Romanian counter-puncher quickly recovered and fought back as Gauff’s error count continued to climb, breaking twice to go up 5-4 before wrapping up the contest in 77 minutes.
“I felt like I played the exactly what I had to play. In the second set she changed a little bit,” Halep said in a post-match interview.
“She’s been more aggressive and it was not easy to adjust, but in the end I pushed her back and I did what I wanted to do… We played a few times so I knew what to expect.”
Halep will face Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur who beat Belinda Bencic 6-2 3-6 6-2 in an earlier match where the final set was played under the roof due to rain.
“Just a reminder guys, Simona won against Paula (Badosa in the previous round) and she’s Spanish. So if she wins you have to cheer for me,” Jabeur said.
In St Malo, France, Jaimee Fourlis, has joined Maddison Inglis and Astra Sharma in the 32-player draw after defeating Magali Kempen 6-4 6-3.
Fourlis, 22, from Melbourne, is 237th in the world and ranked 11th in Australia.
In the first round she will meet Maryna Zanevska, Inglis faces Beatriz Haddad Maia and Sharma plays Claire Liu.