Simona Halep huffs and puffs into Roland Garros second round
Last year's runner-up Simona Halep huffed and puffed past Russian Evgeniya Rodina as the French Open began on Sunday, the Romanian reaching the second round 7-5 6-4.
The third seed was never really threatened but let her guard down too many times for comfort against a willing opponent on a sun-drenched court Philippe Chatrier.
Halep, the top name in action in the women's draw on day one, broke twice to open a 4-1 lead, only for Rodina to hit back and level at 5-5.
The Russian let another service game slip from her hands with a double fault and Halep clinched the set with a drop shot.
She broke decisively in the ninth game of the second set and wrapped it up with an ace
"It was a tough match, because it was first round and it is always difficult to start the tournament," Halep, who lost to Russian Maria Sharapova in last year's final, told a news conference.
"But she played well. I (made) easy mistakes, but it's normal and I accept that. Next round I will be better, for sure."
While most of the focus is on Sharapova and top seed Serena Williams, Halep said she is better-equipped to challenge the big two this year, having grown as a player.
"I'm stronger, I think, mentally, and I'm stronger, as well, on court. I feel stronger -- I have a stronger body and I have improved a lot in my game. Serve is better, so I feel more confident now with my game," she explained.
She will next face Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who beat her in the third round of the U.S. Open last year.
It will be a different story on the Paris clay, though, according to Halep.
"I have no good memories from that match, because I didn't play my match. I just was blocked and I couldn't hit the ball," Halep said. "But now I feel much better. I feel that I have my chance.
Former champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, seeded seventh, reached the second round by beating Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6 6-2 6-0.
First round results
Elena Vesnina (Russia) beat Kirsten Flipkens (Belgium) 2-6 6-3 6-3
13-Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic) beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) 7-6(6) 7-6(9)
Kurumi Nara (Japan) beat Oceane Dodin (France) 3-6 7-5 6-1
7-Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) beat Yaroslava Shvedova (Kazakhstan) 4-6 6-2 6-0
Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) beat Olivia Rogowska (Australia) 0-6 7-5 6-2
28-Flavia Pennetta (Italy) beat Magda Linette (Poland) 6-3 5-7 6-1
Donna Vekic (Croatia) beat 31-Caroline Garcia (France) 3-6 6-3 6-2
3-Simona Halep (Romania) beat Evgeniya Rodina (Russia) 7-5 6-4
9-Ekaterina Makarova (Russia) beat Louisa Chirico (U.S.) 6-4 6-2
Misaki Doi (Japan) beat Petra Cetkovska (Czech Republic) 6-3 6-2
Bojana Jovanovski (Serbia) beat Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine) 1-6 6-1 6-0
Camila Giorgi (Italy) beat Tatjana Maria (Germany) 7-5 6-3
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Croatia) beat Lauren Davis (U.S.) 6-3 3-6 6-3
Teliana Pereira (Brazil) beat Fiona Ferro (France) 6-3 6-2