HOBART, Australia – Irina-Camelia Begu powered past qualifier Heather Watson and into the second round of the Hobart International thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 victory in Tasmania.
Watson, the winner of this tournament in 2015, started with terrific promise amid a flurry of opening-game winners but failed to show such accuracy against an opponent whose consistency allowed her to record a solid victory.
“It was a really good start, I played really well in the first set,” she said. “Then Heather started to play better in the second set.
“The Australian Open starts next week and you want to have some matches in your pocket, so I’m glad I got the win.”
Begu was particularly pleased with how her serve held up, as she was only once forced to save break points after a difficult start.
“I worked a lot on my serve in pre-season. I served really well, especially in the wind – it’s not easy,” she said.
The Brit claimed the opening six points of the match, which contributed the bulk of the six clean winners she struck in the first set. Thereafter, mistakes took over her game and she amassed an alarming 10 unforced errors against an opponent who made only two over the course of the 26-minute opener.
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The solidarity of Begu, the WTA World No.76, allowed her to cruise to the opening set, winning six successive games after dropping the opener on her serve to love.
Watson stopped the rot at the beginning of the second, reeling off four successive points to hold serve for the first time after trailing 0-30.
It proved a platform for a more competitive set, although the Brit missed an immediate opportunity to take command, squandering three break points in a lengthy second game.
These would prove to be her best chance as both players took command on serve thereafter.
A succession of comfortable holds was ended in the ninth game, when Begu made the decisive break as the unforced errors that Watson continued to make arrived at an untimely moment.
Although Begu showed some sign of nerves as she served out, the 28-year-old claimed a second-round meeting with No.3 seed Zhang Shuai or qualifier Anna Blinkova as her opponent netted.