There was no letdown for recently-crowned Madrid champion Ons Jabeur to start her stay in Rome: the ninth-seeded Tunisian kept her winning streak going by defeating Sorana Cirstea in Tuesday's first round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
After playing three three-setters in six matches last week to win her first WTA 1000 title in the Spanish capital, Jabeur looked as though she'd have no such trouble in securing her seventh consecutive victory. She won the first eight games in her first match against Cirstea in eight years and led 6-0, 5-2, but held off a furious late surge from the Romanian to move safely through to Round 2.
Three points away from being pushed the distance, Jabeur steadied after losing four straight games; a hold, and a racing start to the ensuing tiebreak, ultimately secured her a 6-0, 7-6(1) win in which the second set was twice as long as the first.
In her third visit to Rome, and second time playing the main draw, Jabeur is through to the second round for the first time. Bidding for an eighth straight win and a spot in the last 16, she'll face Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic next.
Andreescu advances over injured Raducanu
Earlier in the evening, the first career meeting between two of the last three US Open winners ended abruptly: Bianca Andreescu advanced to Round 2 after Emma Raducanu retired with a low back injury.
After losing just two games in a 6-1, 6-1 win over Australian Open finalist and then-world No. 8 Danielle Collins last week in Madrid, Andreescu had similarly dominant start against the World No.12 in Rome; after 2021 US Open champion Raducanu held serve in a marathon opening game in the face of three break points, her 2019 counterpart ran off five of the next six games behind two breaks of serve.
On the ensuing 5-2 changeover, Raducanu left the court for a medical timeout, and she completed just four more games before shaking hands. After dropping serve for a third time to trail 6-2, 2-1, the Brit pulled the plug, and told reporters later that the issue is one she's been dealing with since her third-round exit from Madrid.
"I thought that maybe taking one, two days off, it would just go away because a lot of the other small niggles I've had, they've kind of gone away after taking, like, two days off," she said.
"Then I got here and I was training, but it just didn't seem to get better. I was training with some limitations. I wasn't moving really, I was just playing where I knew where the ball was coming, just staying in one corner. I think I must have underestimated the unpredictability of competition in a match, you have to react ... Bianca is a great player. She's not going to let up and just hit the ball to you.
"I think the last few weeks have been really positive. I've learned a lot about myself and my game has definitely improved on this surface, but, for sure, I need to make sure my back is fully right, however long that takes. I need to just keep on it. I don't want to play my next match with a feeling of limitation because I think that I learned my lesson from this week, when to push, when not to push."
In the 11 completed games, former Top 10 player Andreescu, who's back into the Top 100 in this week's rankings, was certainly as her best: She hit 25 winners to just five unforced errors, and never faced a break point.
And she agreed. "It's definitely up there," Andreescu said, rating her performance. "Also my match with Danielle Collins in Madrid was very good. In my opinion, 'very good' for me is defined by consistency, effort, execution ... I do wish her a speedy recovery and hope I can keep the same energy in the next rounds."
Andreescu moves through to a second-round meeting against Spanish lucky loser Nuria Parrizas Diaz, who advanced when her compatriot Sara Sorribes Tormo retired with a left upper back injury while leading 6-1, 4-3 in the match. Parrizas Diaz only earned a spot in the main draw after Naomi Osaka withdrew Monday with an ankle injury.