EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko rallied from break deficits in both sets to dispatch Mihaela Buzarnescu, advancing past the Romanian, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round at the Nature Valley International.
A semifinalist at last year's Wimbledon Championships, Ostapenko is coming off a quarterfinal run at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, and captured the final four games of each set to win after 91 minutes on Court 3.
Buzarnescu also enjoyed an impressive grass court season in 2018, reaching the quarterfinals and semifinals in Nottingham and Birmingham, respectively, but fell to Ostapenko at this very tournament 12 months ago in the Round of 16.
Facing off for the third time in 2019 - Ostapenko won their first match at the Qatar Total Open while Buzarnescu advanced after the Latvian retired from their Internazionali BNL d'Italia clash - it was the Romanian, who suffered a traumatic ankle injury last summer, that took the quicker start.
Down a break in the opening set, the former World No.5 saved four break points that would have handed Buzarnescu a 5-2 lead, and rode that momentum through the opening set, winning four straight games and capturing the set when Buzarnescu put a backhand into the net.
The second set played out in similar fashion as Buzarnescu again broke in the third game, but Ostapenko was even more emphatic from 2-4 down, dropping just three points to convert a 5-4 lead and sealed the match on her first opportunity.
Though the Latvian threw in 10 double faults, she also struck five aces and won a solid 78% of points behind her first serve. Off the return, she was even more effective, converting four of seven break point chances and winning over half of Buzarnescu's second serve points.
Awaiting Ostapenko in the second round is a rematch of the 2018 Miami Open final against 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who will be playing her first match of the grass court season, having earned a first round bye.