BEIJING, China - No.9 seed Belinda Bencic eased past tricky veteran Hsieh Su-Wei, 7-5, 6-2, to kick off her 2019 China Open campaign.
The reigning Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner reached her first major semifinal three weeks ago at the US Open, and showed off her hardcourt prowess to dispatch the former WTA Doubles No.1 in one hour and 23 minutes on Lotus Court.
"I have much respect for her; I love to watch her play when she's playing other people," she said after the match.
Bencic was playing just her second match since Flushing Meadows, having taken a surprising Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open defeat to rising Russian Veronika Kudermetova, but nonetheless enjoyed a strong start on Saturday afternoon, emerging from an early exchange of breaks to take a 4-1 lead.
Hsieh scored a strong win in Wuhan herself, rallying from a set down to defeat former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki - backing up her win over the Dane earlier this year at the Miami Open - and gamely clawed back to even the score at five games apiece.
Broken the first time she served for the set, the Swiss youngster made no mistake in her second opportunity and took an identical 4-1 lead in the second set.
"I thought I had to be really aggressive today and not play too many rallies because she's the best in those. Normally my game is more medium aggressive, but today I was more. I think it worked out well."
With momentum on her side, Bencic held to love to book a second round clash against either Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova or seven-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1, Venus Williams.
"Both are very tricky players. Strycova is probably more similar to Hsieh, because she comes to the net a lot and tries to be very creative. Venus definitely has a lot of power. I will definitely watch the match and then, from there, make a tactic."
Other winners early in the day included Czech Katerina Siniakova, who downed wildcard Wang Xiyu, 6-2, 6-2, and a trio of marathon wins for Zheng Saisai, Polona Hercog and Daria Kasatkina.
Twice a break down in the final set, Zheng also rallied from 3-1 down in the final tiebreak to beat Monica Puig in three hours and two minutes, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
"Every time I play like in China, like really I feel a lot of support. Also, that make me really want to win," Zheng said.
"I think that's why every time I got pretty tight...I was like up and down a lot, I miss a lot. Also there's many times playing good, but just not that consistent.
"The crowd really helped me at the end. Whole match they were cheering for me. At the end they were saying, Let's go, Saisai. They push me. I feel the power. I really appreciate them at the end. This little power helped me through this match."
Hercog and Kasatkina also battled back from deficits, as each came from a set down to beat Julia Goerges, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-4, and Peng Shuai, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, respectively.