It should have been a straight forward opener for Simona Halep in her eleventh appearance at the Mutua Madrid Open. The world No. 3 was dominating Sara Sorribes, a wildcard, at 6-0, 5-1 but the local player proved stubborn, making her opponent work hard for victory and saving two match points (7-5).
In one of the highlights of the day in the Manolo Santana Stadium, two-time Caja Mágica champion took on the Castellon native, who was granted an invitation in recognition of a great start to the 2021 season in which she won her first WTA title in Guadalajara and moved into the top 50 in the world.
Halep took the fast track to the first set in just thirty minutes (6-0). Sorribes stood up to her opponent’s dominance and picked up her first game of the match to win back the serve she lost at the start of the second set (1-1).
The Romanian maintained her intensity and set her sights on victory with four straight games to give her what looked like an unassailable lead (5-1). However, the determination and grit that characterise Sorribes allowed her to recover two service breaks in the eighth and tenth games and see off two match points in the ninth.
The mark of a champion
— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) April 30, 2021
With the set all square (5-5), Halep earned herself another chance to serve for victory and this time she made the most of it (7-5) to take her record in the Caja Mágica to 28 wins and just 8 defeats.
The 2016 and 2017 champion of the Spanish capital now faces Saisai Zheng in the second round. The Chinese player also won on Friday, defeating the Polish Magda Linette (6-2, 3-6, 6-1).
Halep was full of praise for the Spanish player, saying “I think she's a very solid opponent and she has confidence now because she did great in recent months”, before venturing “she can go higher, because she has the right game to win matches against top players”.
For her part Sorribes, was unable to hide her “sadness” although it was “not a disappointment because I think Simona (Halep) taught me today that I have a lot to improve and keep working on. That’s what it’s all about because you have to keep your feet on the ground as the standard is very high and the players are very good”, she ended.