The Credit One Charleston Open has historically been a happy hunting ground for Paula Badosa, and the No.12 seed delivered one of her cleanest performances of the year to defeat Mayar Sherif 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.
The Spaniard was a semifinalist in 2021, scoring her first win over a reigning World No.1 along the way with an upset of Ashleigh Barty, and a quarterfinalist in 2022.
"It's impossible to forget," she told the crowd. "I was No.70 in the world, and this is where it all started."
This year, Badosa arrives in Charleston seeking to arrest a slide down the rankings. Just under a year ago, she hit a career high of No.2; this week, she has fallen to No.29. But she was able to navigate the danger of Sherif's shotmaking with a consistent display.
"I had a lot of days from Miami to here to practice," Badosa said wryly, referencing her third-round exit to Elena Rybakina in Florida. "So I really worked very hard. I'm playing well, I think. I hope it starts here again."
Badosa will next face either former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez or returning mother-of-two Evgeniya Rodina.
Key statistics: The pair went toe-to-toe in a first set that was tighter than the scoreline suggests. Both struck 13 winners, but Badosa committed only four unforced errors to Sherif's eight. This enabled her to keep her nose in front after scoring an early break: the Egyptian kept threatening a comeback, but despite gaining the break back in the seventh game couldn't quite reel Badosa in.
Sherif's mistakes mounted in the second set as she began to strike out more wildly. She tallied 12 unforced errors to only six winners, while Badosa kept her game watertight with 13 winners to five unforced errors.
Badosa raced through the first five games, only for Sherif to raise her game at the last minute and break as the seeded player served for the match. But Badosa firmly quashed any hint of a comeback in the next game, finding a flurry of forehand winners to break Sherif from 40-0 down.