Former world number one players, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka registered contrasting wins against their respective rivals and moved into the second round of the Italian Open here on Monday.
Halep gained a 6-4, 6-4 revenge on Alize Cornet in 1 hour and 25 minutes, following No.16 seed Azarenka’s 6-3, 6-0 rout of Viktorija Golubic.
Halep, the Rome champion in 2020, had come into the match trailing Cornet 1-4 in a rivalry dating back to 2011 — including a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 heartbreaker won by the Frenchwoman in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open. But she came through two sets that were tightly contested at each end, successfully navigating all of the match’s most competitive moments.
The Romanian sets up a second-round clash against Australian Open finalist and No.7 seed Danielle Collins.
Both sets followed a similar pattern: an absorbing trio of breaks in the early stages followed by a period of Halep dominance to forge a double-break lead. Halep was then unable to close out either set at 5-1 and 5-2, respectively. The trouble Cornet has given Halep in the past was evident in the drop shot battles that opened the match, and her last-ditch pivot to hard, flat hitting as she clung on to the second set.
A careless game comprising two forehand errors and two double faults at 5-1 in the first set was only a blip. Stepping to the line at 5-4, Halep came out on top of two spectacular lung-busting rallies to close out the opening act. At the same stage in set two, some fine first serves sealed the victory.
Just over a week ago, Azarenka came through a tough Madrid opener against Golubic 7-6(5), 6-3. The 2013 Rome finalist enjoyed her win here in just 68 minutes, dropping just five points behind her first serve and racing through 12 of the last 14 points.
“The beginning of the match was a bit nervy, and in the first game I missed a few easy balls,” said Azarenka after the match.
Azarenka will next face either Camila Osorio or wildcard Lucia Bronzetti.
(Inputs from IANS)