Romania's Simona Halep celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Spain's Paula Badosa. Image Credit: Reuters

London: Former champion Simona Halep marked her return to Centre Court on Monday with a scintillating performance to thrash fourth-seeded Spaniard Paula Badosa 6-1, 6-2 and reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Playing on the main showcourt at the grasscourt Grand Slam for the first time since sweeping aside Serena Williams in the 2019 final, the 16th-seeded Romanian put on another show for the crowd on Monday.

She smashed 17 winners, kept a tab on her errors and broke Badosa’s serve five times to close out the victory in an hour.

“It was the place that I wanted to be today. I think I played a great match,” Halep said. “It’s always tough to play against her, she’s a great player.

“Always nervous before, but I enjoyed a lot to be back on Centre Court, in front of this beautiful crowd, always supporting me. It’s a pleasure to be back here.” Halep has been flying under the radar at the 2022 Championships but is now considered a serious title contender as the only former champion left in the draw and with none of the top 15 women’s seeds remaining. She has yet to lose a set in the 2022 Championships.

“I’m really pleased with the way I played this tournament so far. Day by day, it’s getting better,” said Halep, who missed last year’s tournament with an injury, while Wimbledon was cancelled due to Covid-19 in 2020.

“I’m just looking forward to playing the next one and to give my best again, as today.”

Forgettable outing for Badosa

Halep dropped only four games in the pair’s only previous meeting in Madrid in April and their second match-up also turned out to be another forgettable outing for Badosa, who beat 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 while breaking the Spaniard’s delivery three times to win the opening set in 22 minutes.

Badosa saved three breakpoints to hold her serve in the fourth game of the second set but Halep showed great court coverage and consistency from behind the baseline to convert her next chance to close in on victory.

Halep broke her opponent’s delivery once more and sealed the contest on her third matchpoint when Badosa sprayed a forehand wide for her 21st unforced error.

Amanda Anisimova hits a forehand return to Harmony Tan in the last 16 stage. The American won in straight sets. Image Credit: Reuters

She will meet American Amanda Anisimova. who ended Harmony Tan’s dream, for a place in Thursday’s semi-finals.

Tan, who started with a win against Serena Williams, lost on Monday to Anisimova 6-2, 6-3. The unseeded French player, who crushed British wild card Katie Boulter 6-1, 6-1 in the previous round, was no match for the American, who was not broken once.

Anisimova raced into a 5-1 lead in the first set before being briefly held up by Tan, ranked 115 in the world. The second set was tighter but Tan was outgunned by the 20th seed, who struck 28 winners.

Anisimova, 20, whose best Grand Slam performance was a run to the semi-finals at the 2019 French Open, will take on former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the last eight.

Tomljanovic downs Cornet

Ajla Tomljanovic became the first Australian woman in more than two decades to reach back-to-back Wimbledon quarter-finals when she wore down Alize Cornet in an electrifying 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 contest.

The unseeded Australian had beaten Cornet in a topsy-turvy three-setter at last year’s championships and Monday’s encounter was no less eventful as both players kept being broken.

Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic hits a double-fisted backhand return to France's Alize Cornet . Image Credit: AFP

With Cornet leading 4-2 in the opening set, the players embarked on a sequence of six games that went against serve.

Although the 32-year-old Frenchwoman managed to win the first set during that run, it set a trend in a match which featured 16 breaks, with Tomljanovic coming out on top of that count 9-7.

Tired limbs

None of them were as important as the final game, however.

After Cornet, who had ended world No 1 Iga Swiatek’s remarkable 37-match winning streak in the previous round, saved Tomljanovic’s first two match points, the players brought the Court Two crowd to their feet in a 26-shot rally.

It ended with Cornet’s tired limbs failing her as she smashed the ball into the net and immediately collapsed on to her back -- hardly surprising considering the hard-hitting baseline contest had gone on for more than 2-1/2 hours.

Seconds later, Tomljanovic almost toppled over the net as she hit a crosscourt winner to seal her place in the last eight. Once she knew victory was hers, the tears running down her face summed up the emotions of the afternoon.