Simona Halep eased through her opening-round encounter at the VTB Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, as the No.8 seed defeated homeland hope Anastasia Potapova of Russia, 6-1, 6-4.
The former World No.1 from Romania faced off against her fellow wildcard recipient on Centre Court, where Halep notched a 90-minute victory to reach the second round.
Fast facts: The lone previous meeting between Halep and Potapova also went the way of the two-time Grand Slam champion. Halep defeated Potapova 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne earlier this season.
Halep is now 6-1 at the VTB Kremlin Cup, but she is making her first appearance at the event since she won the title in 2013. Halep’s run to the championship in Moscow was the fifth of her six titles she claimed in her breakthrough 2013 season.
World No.68 Potapova is still seeking her first main-draw win at the VTB Kremlin Cup, having fallen in the opening round in 2018 (defeated by Anett Kontaveit) and 2019 (defeated by Anna Kalinskaya).
Tale of the match: Four of the first six games went to deuce, but Halep prevailed in each of those instances, grinding out rallies as she eased to a 5-1 lead. Even though Halep had only three winners to Potapova’s 12 in the opening frame, the Romanian used her experience to grit out those key moments before serving out the set at love.
Potapova kept the scoreline closer in the second set, with four of the first six games going against serve. But long miscues by Potapova gave Halep two chances to break at 4-4, and the eighth seed took the first of those opportunities, firing a sterling return to force another long error from the Russian.
With Halep serving for the match at 5-4, Potapova powered her way to three break points. Halep, though, methodically swept away each one, then converted her second match point of the game to book her spot in the second round.
Next up: In the second round, Halep will take on World No.32 Veronika Kudermetova. Halep won their only previous meeting, 6-1, 6-3, in the third round of this year's Australian Open.
Kudermetova reached the second round after surviving a 2-hour and 20-minute battle with her 18-year-old compatriot Oksana Selekhmeteva, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4. Qualifier Selekhmeteva was making her WTA main-draw debut.
Alexandrova advances after Jabeur retirement
Earlier on Centre Court, Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova advanced to the second round of the VTB Kremlin Cup on Tuesday after No.5 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia retired from their match while trailing 6-1, 1-0. Jabeur was suffering a right elbow injury.
World No.37 Alexandrova came into the match with a dominant 4-1 head-to-head lead over Jabeur. However, the pair had not faced off since 2018, and Jabeur has been on the best run of her life this season.
Jabeur, a VTB Kremlin Cup finalist in 2018, made her Top 10 debut at World No.8 one day ago, becoming the first Arab to reach the Top 10 of either the women's or men's professional singles rankings.
Nevertheless, Alexandrova moved past Jabeur once more, sweeping through the opener before the Tunisian deemed herself unable to continue. Despite the retirement, it will count as the fifth Top 10 win of Alexandrova's career.
Indeed, it was a command performance by big-hitting Alexandrova in the first set. The Russian cracked a return winner to earn the first break of the day at 3-1, then staved off four break points in the next game before consolidating for 4-1.
Alexandrova fired off 13 winners in the opener as she moved ahead by a double-break, eventually completing the opening frame with her fifth ace of the day. Another break of serve gave Alexandrova the immediate advantage in the second set, at which point Jabeur retired.
The retirement adds a wrinkle to Jabeur's high hopes to qualify for the WTA Finals. She is currently ranked No.9 on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard, one spot off the top eight qualification places.
Next up for Alexandrova will be a meeting with Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina in the second round. World No.57 Kalinina upset 28th-ranked Daria Kasatkina on opening Monday.
Kontaveit, Martincova, Petkovic, and Vondrousova also move forward
Anett Kontaveit of Estonia picked up a first-round win on Tuesday, as she continues her blistering end to the season. Kontaveit dismissed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-3, booking her spot in the second round after an hour and 13 minutes of play.
World No.20 Kontaveit, who inherited the No.9 seed after No.6 seed Angelique Kerber withdrew from the tournament due to illness, improved to 4-1 against 50th-ranked Siniakova with the victory.
Kontaveit has now won 17 of her last 19 matches. That run of excellent form includes her second and third WTA singles titles, at Cleveland and Ostrava respectively. Last week, she defeated defending champion Bianca Andreescu en route to the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals in Indian Wells.
Next up for Kontaveit will be Andrea Petkovic. Former Top 10 player Petkovic advanced past 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, 2-6, 6-0, 2-0, ret.
Tereza Martincova was another early winner on Tuesday. The Czech, who is at a new career-high ranking of World No.51 this week, eased past Romanian lucky loser Irina Bara, 6-0, 7-5, in an hour and 19 minutes.
Martincova will next face World No.5 Garbiñe Muguruza, the second seed this week in Moscow. Martincova is 0-3 against Top 10 opposition in her career thus far.
Olympic silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova closed out the day with an upset. Vondrousova of the Czech Republic beat No.7 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 6-4, 6-4.