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Halep beats Badosa, stands next to Anisimova

Former champions Simona Halep marked her return to center court with a sparkling performance to beat fourth-seeded Spaniard Paula Badosa 6-1 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.

For the first time since shoving Serena Williams aside in the 2019 final, the 16th-seeded Romanian played another show for the public on Monday.

She crushed 17 winners, kept an eye on her mistakes and broke Badosa’s serve five times to wrap up the win in under an hour.

“It was the place I wanted to be today. I think I played a great game,” said Halep, who will meet the great American Amanda Anisimova for a place in the semi-finals.

Anisimova ended Harmony Tan’s unlikely run in the second week with a 6-2-6-3 sack of conqueror Serena Williams in 74 minutes.

“It’s always hard to play against her, she’s a great player,” Halep said of the American.

Halep flew under the radar at the 2022 Championships but is now regarded as a serious title contender as the only former champion left in the draw and with 11 straight wins on the manicured lawns of the All England Club.

None of the top 15 women’s seeds, except for Tunisian third seed Ons Jabeur, have survived.

Halep has not yet lost a set and only had to deal with one breakpoint against Badosa.

“I’m very happy with the way I’ve played this tournament so far. It’s getting better every day,” said Halep, who missed last year’s tournament with an injury, while Wimbledon in 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19. †

Halep lost just four games in the pair’s only previous meeting in Madrid in April and their second meeting also proved to be another memorable outing for Badosa, who defeated two-time former champion Petra Kvitova in her previous round.

Former world No. 1 Halep, who won her first major at the 2018 French Open, lost just three points on her serve as she broke the Spaniard’s lead three times and won the opening set in 22 minutes.

The second set was longer, but almost as one-sided, Halep won it in 37 minutes.

“I’ve been working really hard for the past two, three months,” added Halep, who was nearing retirement during an injury-laden 2021.

“That’s why I’m starting to play better and better. I’ve gained the confidence. I really feel that this is my game.”

Since reaching the semifinals of the French Open in 2019 and being labeled the next big thing in American women’s tennis, New Jersey-born Anisimova has been through a traumatic time.

Her father died of a heart attack just before the US Open that year and has been overshadowed by other young players since then.

But on Independence Day, the No. 20, who defeated title contender Coco Gauff in the previous round, underlined her own credentials with her powerful base game that was too strong for Tan.

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