ROME, Italy - Nearly nine years after reaching the finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia as a qualifier, Alizé Cornet is still winning in Rome, outlasting wildcard and 2014 runner-up Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-4, to book a second round clash with No.8 seed Elina Svitolina.
Cornet and Errani have played plenty of entertaining matches in the past, including an infamous Rogers Cup clash in which the Italian questioned why Cornet celebrated with a "Vamos!" rather than with an "Allez!"
The two have since leaned into the meme they unwittingly made, and combined for a similarly memorable clash under the lights in Rome's Next Gen Arena on Monday.
Both women have struggled with injury of late, but it was the 2008 finalist who got out to the faster start, racing to a 4-0 lead and holding off a late surge from the Italian to take the opening set.
The second set featured even longer rallies as the war of attrition got to its critical phase; Errani saved a match point on her own serve and forced the Frenchwoman to serve it out herself, which she did on her third opportunity.
In all, Cornet hit through the wildcard's defenses with 35 winners to 30 unforced errors, converting five of nine break point chances while saving 13 of the 16 break points Errani engineered.
Over on Court 2, surging Chinese star Wang Qiang earned the biggest win of her career over reigning BNP Paribas Open champion Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 6-4.
Wang has had an impressive start to 2017, knocking out Kristina Mladenovic en route to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarterfinals and Caroline Garcia to reach the Round of 16 at the Mutua Madrid Open.
"I don’t think she played too well," the shy she had an injury in her leg. I just wanted to focus on my game.
Against Vesnina, the qualifier had a set and 5-1 lead before Vesnina kicked into gear to save three match points and nearly pull level in the second set.
"I wanted to stay with her, stay in the rallies, and not make too many mistakes so she couldn’t find a way to win the match. I just tried my best."
Up next for the Chinese No.3 is Germany's Mona Barthel, who survived Chinese No.2 Peng Shuai in three sets.
"I’m still nervous right now, and I’ll try my best for my next match."