TORONTO, Canada - No.2 seed Simona Halep got her Rogers Cup title defense off to a strong start, battling past the tricky Magdalena Rybarikova in two sets, 6-3, 6-4.
“I think the whole match was a little bit with the feeling of frustration because she was breaking the rhythm a lot,” Halep admitted in her post-match press conference. “It's her style and is not easy to play against her. She's a very tough opponent.
“I just tried to stay focused. I missed a few easy balls in the second set. I got a little bit upset. But I stayed, in my opinion, very positive and I was still fighting for every ball.
“I think it was a good level of tennis and also good win for me for the first match here was a tough one.”
The Romanian faces the challenging task of defending the same title in two different cities; Halep is on the quest for the rare Canadian double, as she attempts to win back-to-back Rogers Cup titles for the first time in 17 years.
The last woman to win Montréal and Toronto in back-to-back years was Martina Hingis, who ended last millennium with one title and began the next with the other.
After two marathon first games set the tone for the match early on, it took Halep just one break of serve to wrap up the opening set against the dangerous Rybarikova, a lucky loser who is fresh off a run to the Wimbledon semifinals.
The second set turned out to be even more of a battle, with Halep weathering five breaks of serve to emerge with the lead. After an hour and 38 minutes, Halep closed out the match to the delight of the vocally pro-Romanian crowd in Toronto.
Halep’s next challenge will be Barbora Strycova - on Tuesday the Czech came back from a set down to knock out Daria Gavrilova 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3.
“It's going to be maybe the same,” Halep said of playing Strycova. “She's running very well, and it's going to be tough again by the rhythm.
“It's not going to be an easy rhythm match, but I will try just to be more aggressive, and to open the court and to do my style, to play my style. If I play my style, I think I have a good chance to win.”