Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Halep sails past Mertens, Del Potro wins on return


Juan Martin del Potro tosses for a serve to Damir Dzumhur during their second-round match at the Madrid Open on Tuesday in Spain.

Photo: EFE

World No. 1 Simona Halep on Tuesday edged closer to a third consecutive Madrid Open title by beating Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the second round.

Halep, the winner in 2016 and last year, was made to work harder in the second set on Manolo Santana, but her 6-0, 6-3 victory was never in doubt.

Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic will now await Halep in the last 16, as the Romanian continues to prepare for the French Open, where she has twice gone the distance only to finish runner-up.

Halep won the first eight games in a row to lead 6-0, 2-0, with her clay-court counterattacking too strong for the 22-year-old Mertens to handle. Mertens offered some late resistance as her opponent’s concentration wavered, but a double fault confirmed Halep’s victory in a brief 1 hour, 11 minutes.

“I think I played well again,” Halep said. “It is the second match of the tournament. I have a great feeling.”

Earlier, Petra Kvitova battled to a 6-3, 7-6 (10/8) victory over Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig to register her seventh consecutive win.

Kvitova’s hard-hitting game lends itself more to the faster surfaces, but after lifting the title on clay in Prague at the weekend, she has maintained her momentum here and is to meet Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in the third round.

Home favorite Garbine Muguruza staged a comeback from a set and a break down to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 and reach the third round for the first time in her career.

The two-time Grand Slam champion was in trouble when she dropped her serve in the fifth game of the second set, but won 10 of the next 12 games to race to victory.

Dangerous Russian Daria Kasatkina awaits the world No. 3 in the last 16 after a comfortable win over Sorana Cirstea.

Fourth seed and reigning Italian Open champion Elina Svitolina slumped to a surprise 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 loss to Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round.

The Ukrainian world No. 4 is now to prepare for the defense of her title in Rome next week, while Suarez Navarro is to face Bernarda Pera, after the American brushed aside Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-3.

In the men’s singles, Juan Martin del Potro made a winning start to his clay-court season by seeing off Damir Dzumhur in his first match since losing in the Miami Open semi-finals to John Isner in March.

The former US Open champion, who has won two titles this year, including at Indian Wells, had far too much for his Bosnian opponent in a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win.

Del Potro said that his persistent wrist injuries make clay more difficult for him than other surfaces.

“On clay you can’t use the slice much, which is a blow, because I’ve been using it more for my wrist problems,” he said. “For now my wrist is responding well, I’m still having treatment every day. I’m calm, because I’ve been doing well.”

The Argentine, twice a semi-finalist in Madrid, is to take on Dusan Lajovic in the last 16 after the Serbian edged Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/1).

World No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov was beaten in a tight second-round encounter by former Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic.

The big-serving Canadian grabbed the first break of the match in the 11th game, and despite seeing Dimitrov fight back to force a decider, he closed out a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win.

Elsewhere, South Korean rising star Chung Hyeon suffered a shock 6-0, 6-2 first-round thrashing at the hands of Dutchman Robin Haase.

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