Fixture: (3) Simona Halep vs (13) Elise Mertens
Date: 4 May 2021
Tournament: 2021 Mutua Madrid Open
Round: Third round (Round of 16)
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Category: WTA 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €2,614,465
Match timing: Not before 1 pm local time, 4.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Simona Halep vs Elise Mertens preview
World No. 3 Simona Halep made light work of China's Zheng Saisai on Sunday. Halep held off a mid-match surge from her opponent to complete a routine 6-0, 6-4 win in just 79 minutes.
In a match that mirrored the Romanian's opening-round win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in terms of scoreline, Zheng Saisai fought back valiantly after being thrashed in the first set. Ultimately, however, Halep's superior defenses wore her out.
The 29-year-old's 12th match win of the season has earned her a third-round meeting against Belgium's Elise Mertens, who beat the unseeded Elena Rybakina 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Mertens' victory was not devoid of drama, and she dug deep into her reservoir to overcome a spirited challenge from the Kazakh six-footer. Rybakina served for the second set, but found the Belgian's defense extremely difficult to breach.
Mertens secured back-to-back breaks at the tail end of the second set to register her 18th win of the season.
The 25-year-old is fresh off a runner-up finish in Istanbul last weekend, and would be hoping to address her poor record in Madrid which now stands at 2-2.
Simona Halep vs Elise Mertens head-to-head
Simona Halep and Elise Mertens have played each other five times previously, with the Romanian holding a commanding 4-1 lead in the head-to-head.
Three of Halep's wins have come on clay, including their most recent match - the Prague final last year.
Simona Halep vs Elise Mertens prediction
For the second straight match at Madrid, Simona Halep made a quickfire start but then let her opponent off the hook momentarily. Halep was able to ultimately restore order, but she cannot afford to have such lapses against opponents of the caliber of Elise Mertens.
The Belgian is one of the most astute baseliners in the women's game and has forged a reputation for being an opportunist. She would be quick to jump at any half-chance that Halep throws her way on Tuesday.
Both players have a vast toolbox of shots that they can use to dictate rallies from the baseline. But Halep holds an edge with her supreme court-coverage, which, on clay, could have a decisive effect on the outcome of the match.
Prediction: Simona Halep to win in three sets.