Former world No 1 Simona Halep has said she enjoyed a winning debut with her new coach Patrick Mouratoglou, easing to a 6-2, 6-3 success over China’s Zhang Shuai in Madrid on Thursday.
The two-time Grand Slam champion was on the verge of retirement after an injury-plagued 2021 season and had doubts she would be able to recapture the form that saw her spend 64 weeks at the summit of the rankings.
Her decision to team up with Mouratoglou, the longtime coach of Serena Williams, after initially intending to spend some time alone on tour has helped her find the spark she was missing and Halep is feeling motivated ahead of her blockbuster second-round clash with world number two Paula Badosa.
Halep has reached the final tournament-record four times in Madrid, lifting the trophy in 2016 and 2017.
The 30-year-old, currently ranked 21 in the world, scooped the first set against Zhang in 29 minutes and recovered from an early break in the second en route to a 68-minute win.
Competing for the first time since her Indian Wells semifinal exit six weeks ago, Halep showcased a more aggressive game on the clay courts of the Caja Magica and says things have been going great with her French coach so far.
“I used to be a little bit more negative in the past, I improved, but now it’s like, wow, even more,” said Halep of Mouratoglou.
“I can open up to him super easy, I can actually say everything I feel which is helping me because he knows how to take it and how to respond to my problems or my doubts.
“And he has helped me a lot with my doubts because before meeting him I had a lot of doubts that I cannot play at a high level again and probably I was thinking about stopping at one point.
“But now I’m starting to get it back, I have the fire back, and I love to be on court.”