PARIS, France - No.8 seed Aryna Sabalenka made a strong start to her Roland Garros campaign, needing two sets to take down Jessica Pegula and make her way into the second round.
Sabalenka came into Paris on a high note, having reached her first semifinal since her winning run in Doha - and the first of the season’s restart - last week at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.
The Belarusian player brought all of that momentum to Court Suzanne Lenglen, where she battled past Pegula late in the evening in the last match of a cool and rainy day.
Sabalenka fired 21 winners and broke Pegula six times en route to a comfortable 6-3, 6-1 victory - avenging her defeat to Pegula a few weeks ago in the third round of the Western & Southern Open.
“I’m really happy with this match today,” Sabalenka said in her on-court interview. “I would say I did my best and I was fighting for each point - doesn’t matter what the score is.
“She played really well, and we had a great match in Cincinnati so I knew that it’s going to be tough, and I was ready for a great fight.”
Big hitting was on display from the start as Sabalenka and Pegula battled from the baseline in an opening set defined by breaks of serve as the players honed in on attackable serves. Sabalenka broke through first, taking a 3-1 lead, but she surrendered the break straight back as Pegula mounted a marathon, 10-minute effort to convert on the fifth chance and make it 3-2.
The pair traded breaks once again as Sabalenka surged ahead but struggled to close out Pegula. The Belarusian finally held serve to end a run of five consecutive breaks - and did it when it counted most to take the first set 6-3.
As Sabalenka grew in confidence, Pegula struggled to keep up with the No.8 seed, and opened the second set with a break deficit, 1-0. Sabalenka never let Pegula get into a rhythm as she continued to pressure the American’s serve, breaking her twice more en route to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
“The conditions this year are really tough,” Sabalenka acknowledged. “Today it wasn’t that cold, but the days before it was really cold. But we cannot control the weather, we have to adjust. I think I did it well.
“I think my shots are pretty heavy and these conditions can hurt anybody. But the key is not about the shots, it’s about my focus. If I’m ready to fight, to play for each point, then it can hurt anybody. But if I’m not there, it doesn’t matter.”
Into the second round at Roland Garros for the second time in her career, Sabalenka will face Daria Kasatkina in her next match. Kasatkina comes into Paris after reaching the round of 16 in Rome from the qualifying rounds, but was forced to retire in the first set against Victoria Azarenka due to an ankle injury.