ROME, Italy - No.7 seed Caroline Garcia had only won one match at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in three visits prior to this year - but got a second under her belt with an early Wednesday 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Timea Babos to progress to the third round for the first time.
The pair had not played each other in four years, having split their previous encounters in 2014 - Babos taking the win in Cincinnati qualifying, Garcia avenging it on her home turf of Limoges - and, unsurprisingly for two of the biggest servers on Tour, the quality of their first strikes would prove crucial.
Just three points were won on return over the first four games, but the Hungarian would carve out the first opportunities in the fifth. Garcia, though, would repel them, smashing a forehand putaway and an ace en route to holding - and responding by pummeling a series of returns in the following game to seize the break herself.
With the Frenchwoman maintaining a 77% first serve percentage, Babos would be repeatedly frustrated in her attempts to make inroads on the Garcia serve; after those opportunities in the first set, only one further break point would come her way, saved by the Wuhan and Beijing champion with a huge first serve.
Though the World No.38's booming delivery was also a formidable weapon, Babos proved more vulnerable on the second serve, winning just 45% of the points behind it compared to Garcia's 67%. Just as in the first set, the Stüttgart and Madrid semifinalist would find her breakthrough one game after fending her opponent off: having saved a break point to hold for 4-4, Garcia again stepped up the pace on return to snatch the Babos serve before closing the match out comfortably.