Asia in autumn has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for Halep, who arrived in China with just six wins to her name in the past three years. Number seven came rather quicker than expected, a back injury forcing compatriot Begu to call it a day when trailing 6-3, 2-0.
"I feel sorry for her that she got injured. I know how it is and it's not easy," Halep said. "I think I played well from the beginning of the match. She played really well today too. I was a little bit stronger in the end of the set."
Following an even start, in which both players traded breaks, Halep went on the charge, inspired by some typically clean ball-striking. "To go ahead 4-1, I had a big distance between us in the score. I think I served well. I returned very well today. I feel great because I played a good tennis after two weeks off, and also after an injury."
? WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 26, 2016
Halep was forced out of last week's Toray Pan Pacific Open by a hamstring injury, but showed no ill-effects during her 68 minutes on court. Standing between the Romanian and a first quarterfinal in Wuhan will be either Roberta Vinci or Yaroslava Shvedova.
A good run will go some way to securing the World No.5 a return ticket to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, where she is aiming to appear for a third straight year.
"To play Singapore, for sure, is the goal. Then to keep playing like I did today, like I did in US, to enjoy my tennis. I feel no pressure now. I just want to give everything I have. I was pretty good with my attitude today, so maybe I can improve this till the end of the year. I feel good. I just want to play."
Also posting straightforward wins in Halep's section of the draw were Daria Kasatkina and Caroline Garcia. After a bright start to the year, Kasatkina's progress stalled slightly over the summer months, but she impressed on her Wuhan main draw debut, defeating Julia Goerges, 6-0, 6-4.