PARIS, France -- No.1 seed Simona Halep of Romania celebrated her 29th birthday in style with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round of Roland Garros on Sunday.
The 2018 Roland Garros champion never got to experience a birthday at the clay-court major before, but with the rescheduling of the event post-hiatus, World No.2 Halep enjoyed a one-hour and 22-minute win over the World No.70 as a gift.
"The perfect present was that I won today, of course," Halep said, during her post-match press conference. "It was a really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday. So it's going to be pretty unique, maybe forever."
PHOTO GALLERY: Terre battue triumphs: Simona Halep’s 9 clay titles
It was not the only new factor for the three-time finalist in Paris, as she became the first-ever women’s winner under Court Philippe Chatrier’s new roof on a cold and damp opening day.
"I was very honored to open actually this roof, to be the first women's match," said Halep. "It was much better, because we could play and the rain didn't stop us at all."
"Even if it was a little bit heavy, because of the weather, it was good conditions to play in this rainy day," the top seed added.
All of these new developments combined with inspired play by Sorribes Tormo to make the first set quite tense, as Halep had to fight back from a break down twice in the opening frame. Nevertheless, from 2-4 down, Halep reeled off ten games in a row en route to the comprehensive win.
"Still, I felt the cold," said Halep. "I'm not very happy with the cold in general. So it was a little bit tough. I struggled. But, you know, I just have in my mind it is for both of us the same, so I have just to keep calm. The fact that I could change a little bit the tactic during the match, it makes me very pleased with the victory."
The match-win over Sorribes Tormo was Halep’s 15th straight on the WTA, as the former World No.1 has won three straight titles coming into this year’s final major. Halep claimed the crown in Dubai before the hiatus, then notched trophies in Prague and Rome since the resumption of play on tour.
Against the Spaniard on Sunday, Halep's 23 winners were matched by her 23 unforced errors, but Sorribes Tormo only mustered up ten winners against her 16 miscues. Halep claimed over 60 percent of points off of Sorribes Tormo's first service, leading to her six breaks of serve from nine break points.
"At the beginning I just wanted to be aggressive and to hit the balls everywhere," said Halep. "But [Sorribes Tormo] was so strong on the legs, and she didn't miss at all. And also, her ball is coming a little bit higher and with a lot of topspin, so it's not easy to play from up to the shoulder. And then I just started to open the court better, to go slower, and to work for every ball, which I did very well."
"And dropshots," Halep added with a smile.
Halep will face another tough test in the second round with one of two players who are quite comfortable on clay: Jil Teichmann of Switzerland or fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.
In the early stages of the encounter, Sorribes Tormo made Halep work very hard. The Spaniard chased down every ball to extend rallies well past their breaking points, while demonstrating the court craft and variety that led her to a dominant Fed Cup win over Naomi Osaka on clay earlier this season, which was her first-ever Top 10 victory.
Indeed, Sorribes Tormo drew errors from the racquet of the Romanian to earn the first break points of the day at 2-1, and the Spaniard took the early 3-1 lead by punching a volley winner. Halep quickly got back on serve with some sturdy hitting in the next game, but Sorribes Tormo kept triumphing in long rallies and earned another break for 4-2.
However, at that point, Halep tightened up her game and began to wrest control of the match away from her unseeded foe. The Romanian claimed the break back once more, then used strong hitting from the forehand wing to earn a love hold and reach 4-4.
Halep at last took her first lead in the next game, when tremendous depth set up a forehand winner to break for 5-4. The top seed reached triple set point in the following game with a backhand winner, and she converted her first opportunity after a forehand by Sorribes Tormo found the net.
After winning the final four games of the first set, Halep never let go of the momentum. The Romanian ended a rally with an error-forcing overhead to break for 1-0, and after another rally was busted open with a forehand winner down the line for a commanding 3-0 lead, Halep was firmly in control.
Halep raced to 5-0, and though Sorribes Tormo was able to fend off one match point and send that game to deuce, the Spaniard misfired on a return into the net to give the top seed another chance. There, the former champion was rewarded with a wide service return by Sorribes Tormo, accepting a tenth straight game to wrap up a birthday victory.