SEOUL, South Korea - No.4 seed Sorana Cirstea emerged victorious on Centre Court over Misa Eguchi, 6-1, 6-3, while fellow Romanian and No.5 seed Irina-Camelia Begu recovered from a set down to dispatch Thai qualifier Varatchaya Wongteanchai, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the second round at the KEB Hana Bank-Incheon Airport Korea Open.
Cirstea and Begu are two of four Romanian women currently in the Top 100 - with Mihaela Buzarnescu and Ana Bogdan not too far behind. Begu sees the team as one comprised of strong-willed individuals.
"Everybody asks us," she said after the match. "There’s a lot of players. I wouldn’t say we have a tennis school that brought us to the top; it’s all on ourselves. Our families were behind us, so were our sponsors. Everyone was practicing, doing their own schedules. I can’t really say why so many of us are at the top!"
Ranked as high as No.22, Begu endured a slow start against Wongteanchai, who made it through two rounds of qualifying just to earn her spot into the main draw.
"The first match is always tough, to get rhythm and get used to the court. The outside courts are different from the Centre Court, and she had two matches from qualies, so I didn’t start too well. I was making too many mistakes to fall behind 0-5.
"At a set and 0-2 to her, I got more rhythm to play better and make fewer mistakes. From there, I was able to play my game, and then things worked out better."
Making 81% of first serves in the deciding set, the No.5 seed clunched victory after two hours and nine minutes on court.
"I was frustrated and getting nervous to fall behind a set and break. It’s never easy to recover from that, but I put more balls in the court, made fewer errors and made more winners. I knew if I stayed concentrated and positive, I could play my game and change the situation."
Begu will next face Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia, who also recovered from a set down to Ukrainian wildcard Katarina Zavatska, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Earlier in the day, Cirstea enjoyed a much more straightforward encounter with Eguchi, winning 80% of points behind her first serve and converting five of six break points to ease past the Japanese star in 61 minutes.
"It’s my second year here," she said in her post-match press conference. "I actually really like this tournament, so I don’t know why I haven’t played here more! I’m happy with how I played today. I was aggressive from the beginning to the end, and I served well. I think it was a good match for a first round."
Cirstea will next play either local wildcard Jang Su Jeong or American Nicole Gibbs, who had then-WTA World No.1 Karolina Pliskova on the ropes in the second round of the US Open.
Her projected semifinal opponent is top seed Jelena Ostapenko, whom she played in Flushing Meadows, and with whom she's opted to play doubles in Seoul.
"We're both trying to have more matches. For both of us, it's good to play some extra matches, even when they're in doubles. We agreed to play together this week, and hopefully we'll try to do well."