Tennis-Former champion Halep makes winning return to Wimbledon

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 28, 2022 Romania's Simona Halep celebrates winning her first round match against Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova REUTERS/Paul Childs

LONDON (Reuters) - Former world number one Simona Halep returned to Wimbledon for the first time since winning the 2019 title and picked up exactly where she left off with an impressive 6-3 6-2 win over dangerous Czech Karolina Muchova on Tuesday.

The cancellation of the tournament in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a calf injury last year meant the 30-year-old Romanian never got to defend the Venus Rosewater Dish.

But against Muchova, a player whose 81st ranking belies her quality, she looked in the mood to reclaim it.

The 16th seed, who stunned Serena Williams in the 2019 final, was just too solid for Muchova whose lack of play this year because of an abdominal injury was cruelly exposed.

Halep broke serve in the third game and again in the ninth to take an opening set in which she did not face a break point.

It was a similar story in the second set as Halep drew Muchova into long baseline exchanges which she inevitably won.

The 25-year-old Muchova, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2019 and 2021 and Australian Open semi-finalist last year, saved two break points at 1-2 in the second set.

But Halep was relentless, converting a third with a volley into the open court as she closed in on victory.

Halep's accuracy from the baseline offered Muchova no escape route and the end came after 64 minutes as the Romanian set up a clash with Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens.

She thanked coach Patrick Mouratoglou, formerly with Serena Williams, for re-igniting her career.

"It feels great to be back, great memories of 2019 and always a pleasure to be here, it was pretty emotional before this match but now I'm happy and I want to enjoy it," she said.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

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