Madrid Open: Mertens ousts Halep, Thiem makes winning return
Women's singles world number three Simona Halep was dumped out of the Madrid Open, losing 6-4, 5-7, 5-7 in the last 16 to Belgian Elise Mertens. Halep had earlier sailed through the first two rounds without dropping a set. On the other hand, Dominic Thiem claimed a straightforward win in his first match since March. Here we present the key details.
Halep, who won the Madrid Open title in 2016 and 2017, is still yet to reach a WTA Tour final this season. Notably, this was her earliest exit in the Spanish capital since a 2015 first-round loss. Halep had beaten Mertens in three previous meetings on clay. Notably, these victories came in straight sets. Halep had lost a total of just 13 games.
Halep praised Mertens and said the former deserved to win. "Yeah, she played really well, and she definitely deserved to win because she was stronger in the end," Halep said. "I cannot say that I played badly, but I did some mistakes, some important mistakes. You know, sometimes it's just a little bit, and the match is going away," she added.
Mertens will meet her doubles partner, Belarusian seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in the quarters. Sabalenka dispatched American Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-2 in just 52 minutes. Meanwhile, world number one Ashleigh Barty will meet ninth seed Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals. Eighth seed Belinda Bencic will be up against Spaniard Paula Badosa, ranked 62 in the world. Also, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will play Karolina Muchova.
In the men's section, world number four Thiem eased to a 6-1, 6-3 thrashing of American Marcos Giron in his first match for almost two months. Thiem broke his opponent's serve four times and did not face a break point. He will next face Australia's Alex de Minaur, who was leading Lloyd Harris 6-2, 3-0 when the South African retired injured.
Italian teenager Jannik Sinner assured his place in the second round when his opponent Guido Pella withdrew with a leg injury while trailing 6-2, 4-4. Sinner will face Alexei Popyrin in the second round after the Australian beat German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).