PARIS, France -- The breakthrough season of No.14 seed Elena Rybakina kept on rolling at Roland Garros, as the Kazakh notched her first-ever main-draw win at the clay-court major with a comprehensive 6-0, 6-3 victory over 2009 quarterfinalist Sorana Cirstea of Romania.
World No.18 Rybakina, who is just a handful of days removed from reaching her WTA-leading fifth singles final of the season in Strasbourg, needed just 65 minutes to dispatch the 84th-ranked Romanian and reach the second round in her second main-draw showing in Paris.
Speaking to the media after her win, Rybakina said that claiming her first victory at Roland Garros is "great, and hopefully I will get more matches and go further in the draw."
"Of course my goal is to play good in these big tournaments, and now I have this chance here, and we will see how it goes," added the 14th seed.
In their sole prior encounter, Rybakina fought back from a set down to overcome Cirstea on the hardcourts of Doha earlier this season. This time around, Rybakina had far fewer struggles, reeling off the first seven games of the match before easing to victory.
The pair was nearly evenly matched in winners and unforced errors, but Rybakina converted five of her seven break points, while former Top 25 player Cirstea was 1-for-6 on her break chances. Rybakina won 57 percent of Cirstea's service points during the match (23 of 40).
"Actually, I was really lucky because I finished the match and now it’s raining and everything stopped, but it was also raining during the match," said Rybakina. "I started good in the first set and it helped me a lot. In the second set, I lost a bit of concentration for a few moments, lost a few games, but overall, I think I played really good and composed."
"I had really good matches in Strasbourg," Rybakina stated, looking back to last week. "The final was good, just a few mistakes, a few games made the difference. It was a good week for me. The last match, the final was super cold, but I got used to the conditions before Paris, so I was ready for the weather."
Rybakina’s returns were strong from the outset of the match, as she used that shot to force a backhand error from Cirstea and break for a 2-0 lead. From there, the Kazakh started to reel off game after game with powerful hitting into each part of the court, and she garnered a second break with an error-forcing forehand to lead 4-0.
Cirstea started to recover the glorious groundstroke game that pulled her to the last eight at Roland Garros in 2009, mainly using the forehand side to earn three break points in the next game. However, Rybakina methodically fended each chance off, and held on for 5-0.
Serving to avoid the bagel, Cirstea used powerful hitting to erase Rybakina’s first set point, ending a divine rally on that point with a crosscourt forehand winner. But a backhand misfire by the Romanian gave Rybakina a second set point, and the Kazakh converted that chance when another blistering forehand return forced Cirstea to reply into the net.
14th seed Elena Rybakina goes from her tour-leading 5th final on Saturday in Strasbourg to earning her 1st main draw win at Roland Garros, a 60 63 win over Sorana Cirstea.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 29, 2020
One to watch in Paris.
Faces Ferro or Watson. #RG20 pic.twitter.com/eDqG0odXpT
Cirstea at last quashed the seven-game run by Rybakina, holding for 1-1, but the Kazakh still claimed an early break and go up 3-1. After saving a break point with an error-forcing forehand in the next game, Rybakina went ahead 4-1, taking control of the affair.
Things got more complicated as Rybakina’s victory neared, though. After a routine hold for 4-2, Cirstea grasped her first break of the day, pulling back on serve at 4-3. However, the Romanian let a 30-15 lead slip away in the subsequent game, and Rybakina fired another fierce forehand to force an error and reclaim the break advantage.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Rybakina had one final hurdle to clear, wiping away Cirstea’s last break point of the day with an error-forcing backhand down the line. A forehand error by the Romanian then gave Rybakina a match point, which the Kazakh claimed after a wide return by Cirstea sent the 14th seed sailing into the second round.
Next up for Rybakina in round two will be either Heather Watson of Great Britain or French hope Fiona Ferro.