PARIS, France - Former World No.1 Simona Halep maintained an unbeaten record against fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu to advance, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the third round of Roland Garros.
"It's never easy to play against a Romanian and against Irina, we played so many times it's never easy," Halep said after the match. "She's a very strong opponent and she's also powerful, the serve is really strong. Today the court was heavy so I couldn't return very well, but I managed well in the end and I think I played the right game when I needed to."
Halep, boasting an unbeaten 13-0 against Romanian players, enjoyed a fast start and rarely let up during the 83-minute match, serving out the match in fine style on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.
The 2018 champion was riding a wave of confidence coming into Paris, having won her last 14 matches and three titles dating back to February's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Capturing a long-awaited Internazionali BNL d'Italia crown ahead of her return to Roland Garros, she celebrated her 29th birthday by extending her winning streak to 15 straight with a win over Sara Sorribes Tormo on Monday.
Facing her countrywoman for a spot in the third round, Halep had never lost to Begu in seven previous encounters - five on the tour level, and most recently at the Prague Open in August, where the former World No.1 won in straight sets en route to the title.
After winning the final 10 games in her match against Sorribes Tormo, Halep added another three games to the pile against Begu, dropping just two points in between two love service holds.
Initially struggling to find her range, Begu, who reached the second week at Roland Garros in 2016, saved two break points to get on the board, and soon settled in as she broke Halep to get the opening set back on serve.
The top seed responded in fighting fashion, engineering two more break points with a powerful passing shot and subsequently broke once more to find herself serving for the set.
"I think the best thing that I do is once I step on the court I don't think, I don't, I'm not thinking any more against who I am playing, even if it's Romanian or not.
"It's a little bit of stress before the match, but I am confident, I know what I can play, I know how I can play, so I didn't feel too nervous. I just feel nervous at the beginning, but then I just forget about who I play and I just try to win the match."
Playing solid defense to get to set point, Halep put down a decisive delivery to wrap up the set in 40 minutes.
An early exchange of breaks had the Romanians on equal footing until Halep outrallied Begu to earn a pair of break points at 4-4, converting the first as Begu missed a forehand wide.
Though Begu threatened to force a break point in the final game, the reigning Wimbledon champion held firm and edged over the finish line in under 90 minutes.
In all, it was a clean match from Halep, who struck 15 winners to 14 unforced errors while converting four of 10 break point opportunities and winning exactly half of all points played on return. Begu will rue her late start, which contributed to 29 total unforced errors to 22 winners, and winning just 14 points on Halep's serve in two sets.
Standing between the former World No.1 and a sixth trip to the second week in Paris is a 2019 quarterfinal rematch against No.25 seed Amanda Anisimova, who breezed past fellow American Bernarda Pera earlier in the day.
"It's one year between, so it's going to be a little bit tough to explain now how it's going to be. But I'm going to talk with the coach, I know it's going to be tough because she's hitting the ball strong and flat, so it's going to be tough."
"I remember the match from last year, I remember also that I didn't play what I wanted, so I will do some changes and I will just try to play better and to take my chance."