Former champion Simona Halep marked her return to Centre Court on Monday with a scintillating performance to thrash fourth-seeded Spaniard Paula Badosa 6-1 6-2 and reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Playing on the main showcourt at the grasscourt Grand Slam for the first time since sweeping aside Serena Williams in the 2019 final, the 16th-seeded Romanian put on another show for the crowd.
She smashed 17 winners, kept a tab on her errors and broke Badosa’s serve five times to close out the victory in an hour.
“It was the place that I wanted to be today. I think I played a great match,” said Halep, who will meet big-hitting American Amanda Anisimova for a place in the semi-finals.
“It’s always tough to play against her, she’s a great player.
“Always nervous before, but I enjoyed a lot to be back on Centre Court, in front of this beautiful crowd, always supporting me. It’s a pleasure to be back here.”
Halep has been flying under the radar at the 2022 Championships but is now considered a serious title contender as the only former champion left in the draw and with 11 straight wins on the All England Club’s manicured lawns.
None of the top 15 women’s seeds, other than Tunisian third seed Ons Jabeur, have survived either.
Halep has yet to lose a set in the 2022 Championships and faced just a single breakpoint against Badosa.
“I’m really pleased with the way I played this tournament so far. Day by day, it’s getting better,” said Halep, who missed last year’s tournament with an injury, while Wimbledon was cancelled due to COVID-19 in 2020.
Halep dropped only four games in the pair’s only previous meeting in Madrid in April and their second match-up also turned out to be another forgettable outing for Badosa, who beat two-time former champion Petra Kvitova in her previous round.
Former world number one Halep, who won her first major at the 2018 French Open, lost just three points on her serve while breaking the Spaniard’s delivery three times to win the opening set in 22 minutes.
Badosa saved three breakpoints to hold her serve in the fourth game of the second set but Halep showed great court coverage and consistency from behind the baseline to convert her next chance to close in on victory.
Halep broke her opponent’s delivery once more and sealed the contest on her third matchpoint when Badosa sprayed a forehand wide for her 21st unforced error.
“I worked really hard in the past two, three months,” said Halep, who came close to retirement during an injury-laden 2021. “I’m really happy with all that I’ve done.
“That’s why I’m starting to play better and better. I got the confidence. I really feel this is my game. I’m pushing myself to do it as much as possible. I want to improve still.
“So I’m really looking forward to work more and to be able to do it better.”