2-time champ Halep makes winning start in Madrid

Romania's Simona Halep returns a shot to Coco Vandeweghe from the U.S. during their match at the WTA tennis tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, Friday, April 27, 2018. (Marijan Murat/dpa via AP)

MADRID (AP) Two-time defending champion Simona Halep brushed aside Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-0 in the first round of the Madrid Open on Sunday.

Top-seeded Halep recorded her 13th consecutive victory on Madrid’s clay courts.

”I was moving great. I felt the game, I like to play on this court,” Halep said. ”Always when I come back here, I feel a little bit more relaxed, so maybe that’s why I can touch my best level every time I play.”

Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki also eased through, dispensing with Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-1. The Australian Open champion is playing a week after she withdrew from the Istanbul Cup due to an abdominal injury.

Third-seeded and home favorite Garbine Muguruza also advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Shuai Peng, hitting five aces and breaking Peng’s serve four times.

Maria Sharapova beat Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-4, 6-1 for her first clay-court victory of the season. A left arm injury had forced Sharapova to withdraw from both the Dubai Championship and Miami Open.

Victoria Azarenka prevailed over Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 6-3 in her first clay-court match since the 2016 French Open and the birth of her son.

Azarenka, who had reduced her playing schedule due to a custody dispute with her son’s father, said that she planned to play at Rome, the French Open, Mallorca and Wimbledon.

”I’m trying to get a little bit more stability right now,” the Belarusian said. ”As much as I can play, I will.

”I was so happy to be on that plane, you have no idea. You have no idea how happy I was to just have a fresh European air, European food, everything.”

Petra Kvitova, who won in Madrid in 2011 and 2015, brushed aside Leisa Tsurenko 6-1, 6-2, and Sloane Stephens beat Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-3, 6-2.

Other winners included Samantha Stosur, Sorana Cirstea and Carla Suarez Navarro.

In the men’s event, Richard Gasquet beat Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2.