Simona Halep won the first nine games before China’s Zheng Saisai got a look in as the two-time champion powered into the third round of the Madrid Masters on Sunday.

Romania’s 2016 and 2017 winner at the Caja Magica advanced  6-0, 6-4 in 80 minutes with six breaks of her 57th-ranked opponent’s serve.

“I was confident when I arrived here because I always played well,” Halep said after losing just nine games in her first two matches.

“But I had a long break after  Australia. Even after playing in Miami, I was struggling a little bit.

“I was stressed before the matches, but now I feel better. I’m getting better mentally. “I’m starting to enjoy more, and I don’t feel those negative nerves. I’m in a good place now.”

The third seed didn’t quite have it all her own way despite lifting the opening set in 37 minutes after holding off three break points in the opening game of the afternoon.

Zheng broke Halep for 2-3 in the second set and saved a match point in the eighth game to trail 3-5 before breaking again for 4-5.

Halep managed to close out what was turning into a close call; she ended with 19 winners after reaching the third round here for the sixth time in 10 appearances.

“I’m flowing because I’m on clay, I always feel much better. I feel very natural on clay,” she said.

“My break left me hungry for matches, because I didn’t play for a long time. Being pain-free, it’s really nice. 

“I feel happy that I can play close to my best tennis without pain.”


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