Twelve months ago, Halep was ranked outside the Top 50 and fell in the first round of Roland Garros to Carla Suárez Navarro. Since then, a meteoric rise has seen her establish herself amongst the game's best and also amongst the favorites for this year's title. For Kleybanova, it is an achievement in itself that she reached Paris at all, following her successful battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The Turning Point
Halep ran out a comfortable winner in the most recent meeting between the two, at the tail end of last season in Moscow, and from the outset she looked hell-bent on posting an even more dominating scoreline this time around. The first set lasted a mere 25 minutes and until a late rally from Kleybanova the second looked like it would be even briefer. Unfortunately, for the Russian, it was a case of too little, too late, and her belated resistance came to an end when she ballooned a forehand long.
"It was amazing to play on Chatrier. It was my first time on this court - it's so big," Halep said. "I had a bit of experience because I practiced two times here, and also the Kids' Day two days ago.
"It was nice. I had a good feeling and am glad I started the tournament so well. For the first time in my career, I was pretty relaxed for the first round of a major and I'm happy that I could beat her in two sets.
"I think I did well today. And she's a great player on clay. But today I felt really good and I had a good feeling with the ball and with my game. Now I need to keep focused for the next round."
Halep will face Heather Watson in the second round. The two met at last year's US Open, when Watson came within a handful of points of victory - an encounter Halep remembers well. "I could not forget," she said, "because I played around three hours and 30 minutes. She was very strong and it was a difficult match. But here it is on clay, so it will be different. Another day, another match."