Aryna Sabalenka

Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, the defending champion and world No. 4, was beaten in the first round of the Madrid tournament on Thursday, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 by American Amanda Anisimova (33rd), three weeks before Roland Garros.

Sabalenka remained on a final in Stuttgart, lost only to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek (6-2, 6-2). She forfeited in the Spanish capital due to a sore right arm. But Anisimova failed: the Belarusian had lost the four meetings that opposed them.

The second round, scheduled for Saturday, reserves a first clash between the former world N.1 and double Grand Slam winner Simona Halep and the Spaniard Paula Badosa, freshly installed in the place of world N.2.

In her first match since training alongside Patrick Mouratoglou, Halep edged out China’s Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-3 in the first round. Badosa was even more expeditious against Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova (6-3, 6-0).

Thursday, the Romanian said that she has “found the flame” since she collaborates with Mouratoglou. “He helped me a lot because before I met him, I had a lot of doubts about still being able to play at a high level, and I probably thought I would stop at some point,” Halep said.

“It’s going to be an interesting match because it will be a real clay match, very tactical,” Badosa said.

Naomi Osaka, the former No. 1 globally and currently 36th, is scheduled to open her clay-court season on Friday against Anastasia Potapova (78th).

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