In her first appearance at the Citi Open since 2017, former World No.1 Simona Halep of Romania notched a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa to advance to the second round in Washington D.C.
Playing her first match since a Wimbledon semifinal loss to eventual champion Elena Rybakina, No.3 seed Halep held off a second-set comeback by World No.123 Bucsa, prevailing in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
"I think every time you change surfaces it's difficult, and you need a little bit of time to get used to it," Halep said on-court afterward. "I struggled a little bit today, but it was really good that I could finish it in two sets.
"[Bucsa is] a tough opponent, we played for the first time, and so it was not easy, and I'm really happy to go through."
Halep fired 19 winners to Bucsa's seven, and despite 33 unforced errors, the two-time Grand Slam champion was able to convert five of her eight break points to fend off the Bucsa late charge.
Halep saw a set point at 5-2 in the opener go begging after an excellent Bucsa volley winner, but the Romanian held serve in the next game to take the one-set lead. Halep continued to roll at the start of the second set, building a 5-2 lead there as well.
But Bucsa's strong defense and periodic key plays in the forecourt helped the Spaniard mount a comeback, and Halep could not serve out the match at both 5-2 and 5-4. However, Halep used sturdy groundstrokes to break Bucsa again for 6-5, and at the third time of asking, Halep closed out the victory.
Halep will face either Madison Brengle or Anna Kalinskaya in her next match on the hard courts of D.C.
Defending champ Pegula advances
Jessica Pegula, the defending champion and No.1 seed, also picked up a straight-sets win on Monday. The World No.7 from the United States eased past fellow American Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 6-2.
Pegula won her first WTA singles title at the most recent edition of the Citi Open in 2019. Returning to the scene of her top triumph, Pegula kicked off her 2022 campaign with her 1-hour and 13-minute victory over Baptiste, the World No.148 and a Washington, D.C. resident.
Top seed Pegula never faced a break point as she won 18 of her 23 first-service points in the clash, advancing to a second-round meeting against Daria Saville of Australia. 88th-ranked Saville eked past Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).