MELBOURNE, Australia - Caroline Wozniacki, the No.2 seed at a Slam for the first time in six years, lived up to her regained status with a solid 6-2, 6-3 defeat of the unseeded Mihaela Buzarnescu in one hour and 11 minutes.
The Romanian has been one of the most intriguing emergent faces over the past year. After a career consistently beset by injuries (but during which she gained a PhD), she has put together a meteoric rise up the rankings from No.538 this time last year to a career high of No.44 this week, following her maiden WTA final at the Hobart International.
Wozniacki, though, will have already been familiar with her: this is the second Slam in a row at which they have been paired in the first round. At the US Open, where Buzarnescu had qualified to make her Slam debut, the Dane had won 6-1, 7-5.
Buzarnescu also has a stylish, flowing left-handed game - and both her ability to create angles and her athletic hustle were on display early in the match. However, the 29-year-old's deceptively high-risk strategy was simply too intermittent to challenge Wozniacki, as miserly with her errors and as rock-solid from the back of the court as ever. In the first set, Buzarnescu's tactics rewarded her with just five winners to 16 unforced errors; by contrast, her 27-year-old opponent struck the same number of winners but conceded just three errors of her own.
With Wozniacki seemingly in control as she reeled off six consecutive points to take a 2-0 lead in the second set, Buzarnescu expanded her repertoire in a bid to stay in the match. An exquisite dropshot that even the WTA Finals champion couldn't chase down paved the way to a break back; two aces were illustrative of improved serving from the Romanian (from a 50% first serve percentage in the first set to 65% in the second); and a glorious high backhand angled volley sealed another break to put her ahead in the match for the first time, 3-2.
The 2011 Australian Open semifinalist hasn't had a career resurgence over the past 15 months without knowing when to step up another level, though - and with danger looming, Wozniacki raised her aggression levels, attacking the net to break back immediately. The eighth game saw her employ high moonballs to draw more errors from Buzarnescu, and a firm, no-nonsense overhead put the World No.2 back in control for 5-3.
From there, Wozniacki was able to close the match out without any fuss on her first match point to set up a second round encounter against either Misa Eguchi or Jana Fett.