Kiki Bertens had to rally in the first set, but got her title defense off to a successful start on Tuesday at the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem.
WTA Staff

MARRAKECH, Morocco - Though she had a slow start, defending champion Kiki Bertens stayed perfect at the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem with a defeat of Timea Babos.

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Playing just her second WTA main draw last year when the tournament was located in Fès a couple hundred miles away from Marrakech, Bertens went all the way from qualifying to her first WTA title. A year later, she is no longer a darkhorse - as she is ranked No.41 and is the No.5 seed.

Though Bertens fell into a 5-2 hole in the opening set against Babos on Tuesday, she turned the tides from there for a 75 62 victory. She is now 9-0 at this event, including qualifying matches.

"I was very nervous at the beginning because I have a lot of points to defend," Bertens said. "I made a lot of mistakes. I was 5-2 down and I had two set points against me. But then I started to play a little bit better and I won the first set and I played better at the end as well."

A lot of eyes were on the Kaia Kanepi versus Anabel Medina Garrigues first round showdown. While Kanepi is seeded fourth this week, she is playing just her second tournament of the season because of a right Achilles injury. And Medina Garrigues is the WTA's active leader in clay court titles with 10, one of which came at this event in 2009.

Kanepi let a 4-1 first set lead slip away and was down a break at 3-2 in the second set before reeling off four games in a row to win the set and seize the momentum in her 46 63 62 triumph. Kanepi is now 4-1 in her series with Medina Garrigues, though each of the last four have gone three sets.

"It was quite a tough match with the shadows and this being my first outdoor match this year," Kanepi said. "I played very well in the first set, but then lost confidence after a few bad games and mistakes. But I fought back and got my confidence in the third set, and after that I played very well."

Also advancing on a perfect day for seeds were No.3 seed Alizé Cornet, No.7 seed Kristina Mladenovic and No.9 seed Tsvetana Pironkova. The highest seed left in the draw, Cornet surrendered just two games against Fatima Zahrae El Allami. Mladenovic rallied from 4-2 down in the third set to edge Alexandra Cadantu. Pironkova snapped an eight-match losing streak in beating Karolina Pliskova.

There was one upset in doubles action, as Paula Kania and Raluca Olaru upended second-seeded Italians Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.

Schiavone gets her singles campaign started Wednesday, as does Daniela Hantuchova - who will play her first match as a 30-year-old against Olga Puchkova.