Former champion Simona Halep got her Rome campaign off to a good start cruising past Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-4 in the first round on Monday.
Halep, who lost the quarters last week to eventual winner Ons Jabeur in Madrid, built breaks leads in both sets to pace the win over the veteran Frenchwoman.
Up next for the 2020 Rome champion is Danielle Collins in a tricky second round match.
A pair on young stars kept pace with Halep.
Coco Gauff rolled past former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-4, a much easier win then a near-3 hour affair against Yulia Putintseva a year ago.
“We had a lot of close games even though the first set went, 6-1, a lot of games went to deuce or 30-30,” said Gauff who made the semifinals in Rome last year. “Footwork and movement against her was crucial. She can change direction on some balls that a lot of players can’t, so you don’t really expect it. I felt like I was off-footed a lot, but I think what came through today is really how I handled myself.”
Leylah Fernandez came from a set down to eliminate Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 in a battle of 2021 Slam finalists.
“She’s an incredible player and she’s very comfortable on clay. I knew it was going to be tough. The first set, I made a few mistakes and she just took advantage of it. In the second set, I just wanted to play a little more freely, just letting go of my arms,” Fernandez said.
“Even though I lost the first game, I think it helped me to get into the match. Afterwards, my balls were just going in. I’m just glad that I was able to keep attacking, keep being on the offensive, even though I was making mistakes, and I still kept trusting myself.”
Belinda Bencic, 2013 finalist Victoria Azarenka and Petra Martic also advanced. Madison Keys fell to Anhelina Kalinina and French semifinalist Tamara Zidansek lost to Daria Kasatkina.
Tomorrow, Madrid champion Ons Jabeur battles Sorana Cirstea and in the match of the day Emma Raducanu battles Bianca Andreescu in a match-up of former US Open champions.
“It’s going to be a good match,” Raducanu said. “We are both pretty good players. It’s going to be a good matchup, for sure. She’s a great athlete and obviously a champion. She’s got a really good attitude.
“It’s completely dependent on the day as well at this level.”
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