Tagged in: favorite

Simona Halep beats second-ranked Paula Badosa, returns to Madrid Open last 16

Simona Halep played some of her best tennis at the Madrid Open again in defeating home-crowd favorite Paula Badosa in consecutive sets to reach the last 16 on Saturday for the seventh time in 11 appearances.

The two-time Madrid Open champion had 21 winners as she defeated No. 2-ranked Badosa 6-3, 6-1 on the Caja Mágica center court.

“I knew that I have to be for every point focused and to give everything I have, and I did it great today,” the 21st-ranked Halep said. “I’m really pleased with the way I played.”

Badosa, at a career-high ranking, converted only one of her seven break points versus Halep. The Spanish player broke through on home soil last year with a run to the Madrid semifinals as a 62nd-ranked wild card. “She’s played at a really good level, all of her merit, and I haven’t played very well,” Badosa said.

“I missed absolutely everything. That’s why I was only able to win four games. … At the important moments, the ball fell her side, and at the end of the day we just have to give her an applause. That’s why she’s a champion in this sport.”

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Halep won consecutive titles in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, and she was runner-up in 2014 and 2019.

She has 29 main-draw wins, behind only the 31 she has at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Only three-time champion Petra Kvitova has won more main-draw matches than Halep in Madrid, with 32.

“I’m happy to be on court, and this is the most important thing at this age,” the 30-year-old Halep said. “I improved a lot in these four weeks, and I’m still looking to improve more. I will take this match as, you know, a boost and confidence, because I played with one of the best players in the world.”

Unseeded in Madrid for the first time in nine years, Halep hadn’t played since Indian Wells in March. The Romanian player has been showing a more aggressive game under new coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

“I know is the way I want to play, we want to play,” she said. “We talked about it, and I trust 100% what Patrick tells me about the game. So I’m really happy and pleased that actually I can do it on court, because it’s different when you practice and with the official match. So the fact I could do it in the official match with one of the best players in the world gives me confidence.”

Another former No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, rallied past Tamara Zidansek 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours, 20 minutes in her first match since the third round in Miami, where she retired for personal reasons.

Azarenka hadn’t obtained consecutive matches since the Australian Open. The two-time Grand Slam champion, seeded 15th in Madrid, last made it to the round of 16 in 2016.

Eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur defeated Varvara Gracheva 7-5, 0-6, 6-4, and Belinda Bencic defeated Karolina Muchova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. American Amanda Anisimova also needed three sets to rally past Petra Martic.

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Adebayo has 24, Heat pull away to beat Nets 106-93

Bam Adebayo had 24 points and nine rebounds to lead the Miami Heat to a 106-93 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Jimmy Butler added 17 points for Miami (3-1). P.J. Tucker finished with 15, and Tyler Herro and Dewayne Dedmon each contributed 14.

A preseason favorite to win the NBA championship, Brooklyn has alternated losses and wins through the first five matches of the season and dropped to 2-3. 

Kevin Durant finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. “I like how we’re playing defense the last couple games,” Durant said.

“I like where our defense is trending. … I feel like we’re generating good shots. We’re just (not) knocking them down. If we continue to generate good shots we’ll put ourselves in good position.”

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Joe Harris contributed 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting, including 5 for 11 from 3-point range. With his third 3-pointer of the game, Harris passed Jason Kidd as the franchise’s career leader in made 3-pointers.

James Harden had 14 points and Bruce Brown chipped in with 12.

The first of four regular-season matchups between the Eastern Conference rivals was a contrast in styles, the flashy, up-tempo, high-scoring Nets against a physical Heat squad.

Despite forcing the Nets to play a possession-by-possession game for much of the first half, the Heat trailed 51-49 at the half.

Miami had outscored Brooklyn in the paint (30-20), had more second-chance points (15-2), and had a decided edge in rebounds (35-25).

“We have a bunch of like-minded guys,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “(That’s) the way those guys are hard-wired.”

What the Heat did not have, though, was the tandem of Durant and Harden, who combined for 25 of Brooklyn’s 51 points in the half. Durant also grabbed eight rebounds while Harden added three boards and three assists.

Miami stayed with its approach and it paid dividends in the third quarter, as the Heat outscored the Nets 32-23 and took an 81-74 lead into the fourth. The Heat extended their lead to 88-77 before Brooklyn used a 7-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 90-84.

Following a timeout, Durant stared down Butler as he drilled a 3 to bring Brooklyn with three. That was as close as the Nets would come, as Miami pulled away, with Adebayo throwing down two thunderous dunks.

For the game, Miami outscored Brooklyn 48-34 in the paint, had 27 more second-chance points (31-4), and outrebounded the Nets 62-42.

“Overall a consistent theme was second-chance opportunities,” Harris said. “When you look up and the shot margin was as big as it was, it’s really hard to beat good teams. That was a problem a lot of last year and it’s been a problem a lot of this year so far.”

The Heat did not make any players available to reporters after the match.

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