PARIS (Reuters) - Simona Halep established her credentials to become the newest French Open champion with a blistering 6-1 6-1 victory over Carla Suarez-Navarro to reach the quarter-finals on Monday.
With no former champions left in the field, pregnant Serena Williams watching from the sidelines and Maria Sharapova not invited to compete, third seed Halep has a golden opportunity to break into the grand slam winners’ circle.
Monday’s evidence suggested the Romanian may be ready for it.
“I was expecting a tough game against a very good claycourt player,” Halep said. “But I managed to push her back.
“I feel very, very good now. I think I played the best match here in Roland Garros against Carla, which always was a tough match. And on clay I never won against her, so it was a really
good match. I played exactly what I had to.”
There could be no arguments from any observers or from Suarez Navarro who appeared stunned at the outcome.
“The result speaks for itself,” the Spaniard told reporters. “I was late.
“She played flawless tennis. I had some opportunities but I didn’t convert them. I paid the price for it.”
Before this clash there had been little to suggest it would be so one-sided. Halep led their head-to-head record, but only by 6-5.
As soon as the match began, however, its complexion became quickly apparent. Halep settled faster and raced into a 5-0 lead before Suarez Navarro could register on the scoreboard.
The Spaniard finally held her serve for 5-1 when Halep made a rare forehand error to end a 15-stroke rally, but the Romanian put that blip behind her to seal the set with a backhand pass a game later.
There are few players who strike the ball more crisply that Suarez Navarro, especially on the backhand side where she usually unfurls a big top-spin shot.
But whether it was the swirling wind which snapped the flags lining the roof of the showcourt, or Halep’s varied pace, the Spaniard repeatedly struggled to find her range.
The one high point for Suarez Navarro was when she broke back for 1-1 in the second set, but it was all downhill from there.
Her timing had gone, then her footwork. At one point she was forced to lunge forward to strike a backhand and accordingly popped it into the net, her foot positioning all wrong.
Halep was toying with her now, switching things up, throwing in drop shots followed by lobs. Suarez Navarro scampered around court to no effect.
On the stroke of the hour Suarez Navarro was put out of her misery, having made 41 errors.
As the two kissed at the net, Halep kindly patted her opponent on the back, and the Spaniard could hardly wait to get out of there.
The 21st seed gathered her racket bag and left the arena while Halep took the plaudits and plotted her course.
Next she will meet fifth-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
Editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar