After a rain delay in the neighborhood of three hours, Angelique Kerber, Jelena Ostapenko and Ajla Tomljanovic wrapped up the first round as the final winners on Tuesday at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
The two major-winners needed to be at their best to beat a pair of accomplished players in their own right in Alizé Cornet and No. 16 seed and 2019 Rome finalist Johanna Konta, respectively in straight sets.
Kerber and Cornet played just eight points before the rain came, and after building a big lead following the resumption, Kerber needed to summon her best tennis to fend off a surge from the French qualifier.
From 6-2, 4-0 down, the Frenchwoman won three straight games and had two break points for a fourth, and later broke Kerber when she served for the match at 6-2, 5-4.
However, the German reset in the 11th game en route to beating the former World No.11 on clay for a third time, and a fourth time in six career meetings overall.
At 5-5, Kerber broke serve once more, this time after Cornet had a point for 6-5, and closed out the match in her second attempt on serve in a match that totaled 95 minutes in length. In all, Kerber totaled 32 winners, more than double Cornet's total, to 41 unforced errors and saved a staggering 13 of the 15 break points she faced.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber has only advanced past the second round twice in eight previous trips to Rome, and will need to upset defending champion and No.3 seed Simona Halep up next should she want to accomplish that feat this time around.
The two former World No.1s will meet for a 12th time, with Halep holding a slim 6-5 edge in a head-to-head that dates back to 2009.
Their last clay-court meeting was a memorable one for Halep: after dropping the first set of their quarterfinal match at the 2018 French Open, the Romanian rallied to win, 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-2, on the way to her first Grand Slam title.
"[It's] a very tough draw. Always when I played against her the matches were tough," Halep said of the possibility of playing Kerber during Monday's Media Day. "So I expect a tough battle, and I just want to give my best. There is chance for both of us, so it's gonna be tough."
Almost simultaneously, Ostapenko was at her brilliant best: behind 24 winners, just 14 unforced errors and six breaks of Konta's serve, the Latvian scored a 6-3, 6-1 win in 68 minutes, all of which came after play resumed.
The win is her third against Konta all-time and second in Rome, having previously triumphed in three sets in their third-round match in 2018.
In the first match that resumed after the rain delay, qualifier Tomljanovic closed of a 6-4, 6-2 victory over former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova.
The Aussie rallied from a set down in each of her two qualifying matches, but never trailed against Vondrousova after losing the first game of the match. She was 6-4, 4-1 up when the rain arrived, and will face Ostapenko in the second round.