Hunting for her first title of 2021, Simona Halep shared why she’s in her comfort zone at the Mutua Madrid Open.
The two-time Madrid champion has won 20 of her last 22 matches in Madrid’s famed Magic Box. Since 2016, Halep’s lone Madrid losses have come to Karolina Pliskova in the 2018 quarterfinals and to reigning champion Kiki Bertens in the 2019 final, which is the last time the Masters 1000 event was staged.
The third-ranked Romanian views Madrid as a “homecoming” of sorts because she shares a good relationship with Mutua Madrid owner and former Romanian Davis Cup standout Ion Tiriac and the city’s higher altitude typically elicits a higher bounce off the clay courts, which Halep says adds some sting to her shops helping her counter-punching style.
“It feels special. I feel like home definitely…I think these conditions help me because the ball flies a little bit more, so I have an extra power,” Halep said in her pre-tournament presser. “I didn’t really do much different than normal clay court or normal place that I play. I just feel the ball.
“I think it’s about confidence and being in the past, like, confident and having a great game in these courts. I feel like every time I step on them I am good. I’m not thinking at all that I’m going to struggle here. Doesn’t matter the result. The result doesn’t matter. Just about myself, how I feel on court.”
The third-seeded Halep, who is playing for her first title since the 2020 Rome, opens vs. Spanish wild card Sara Sorribes Tormo. Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who swept Halep in the Stuttgart semifinals on Saturday, looms as a potential quarterfinal opponent.
“It’s a tough match. I played against her in French Open last year,” Halep said of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Sorribes Tormo. “I know that she loves clay. It’s going to be a tough battle. If I won once against her means that I have my chance. I will fight to win the match.”
Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open