No.1 seed Simona Halep enjoyed a superb homecoming at the Transylvania Open, besting Romanian compatriot Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-1, 6-2 in 73 minutes in the first round. She followed Anett Kontaveit's own straight-sets opener after the No.2 seed extended her indoor winning streak to 11, defeating qualifier Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 7-5.
Halep has now won all 14 of her encounters with fellow Romanians in WTA main draws. Indeed, her record against her countrywomen at all professional levels is a dominant 31-4. Three of the losses occurred on the ITF World Tour between 2006-09, and the fourth was a defeat by Sorana Cirstea in 2010 Cincinnati qualifying.
Against Ruse, the 30-year-old was up against one of the new generation of Romanians who have been inspired by her achievements. Ruse captured her first WTA title in Hamburg this July, backed it up with a run to the Palermo final the same month, and cracked the Top 100 in August.
Match management: The start of the match promised a tightly contested clash. Halep needed to survive four deuces and one break point to hold her opening service game as Ruse unleashed her powerful groundstrokes. But after coming through that tussle, the former World No.1 soared as Ruse fell away.
Halep's serve was in particularly fine fettle. Winning 83% of her first serve points and firing six aces, she did not face another break point after that first game.
Errors, and six double faults in total, came all too often for World No.85 Ruse. The second set also reached its peak with one extended deuce game as the 23-year-old, trailing 2-4, fought to stave off the double break. She could not. Halep came up with two phenomenal passing shots in that game alone, the second of which sealed the break and essentially the match.
Up next for Halep is Varvara Gracheva.
Kontaveit extends indoor streak to 11 against Krunic
Kontaveit has already won two WTA 500 indoor trophies this autumn, in Ostrava and Moscow. She has won 22 of her last 24 matches stretching back to an outdoor hardcourt title in Cleveland before the US Open, results that have placed her in contention for the last open spot at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. Kontaveit needs to win this week's tournament in Cluj-Napoca to secure it.
The Estonian took an impressive step towards her goal against Krunic. She raced out to a quick 3-0 lead, breaking the World No.140 immediately thanks to a combination of Krunic forehand errors and her own aggressive returns.
Kontaveit did not face a break point on her own serve as she jumped out to a 6-3, 4-2 lead. Krunic, a former World No.39 whose semifinal showing at the Winners Open Cluj-Napoca in August has highlighted a quiet recent resurgence, showed off some flashy forehands of her own as she broke back for 4-4.
But Kontaveit responded strongly and quickly. She broke Krunic again for 6-5, setting up her second break point with a brilliant backhand winner, and served out the win to 15. Up next will be another player on an indoor winning streak - Alison Van Uytvanck, last month's champion in Nur-Sultan.
"I honestly am not trying to think about it too much," said Kontaveit when asked about her WTA Finals goal. "Recently I've been enjoying being out on the court a lot more, and I think that's something to be really proud of."