WASHINGTON DC, USA - Top seed Simona Halep overcame a tight opening set against the resurgent Sloane Stephens before taking command and sailing to a 7-6(3), 6-0 victory in her first match at the Citi Open in Washington DC.
2015 Washington DC champion Stephens was competing in her first hardcourt tournament since last year’s Olympics in Rio, having been out for almost a year due to an ankle injury. She entered the matchup trailing Halep 3-2 in their head-to-head record, but emboldened by the fact that both of her wins came on hardcourts.
The American showed flashes of the play that made her a champion here in 2015, where she won her first WTA title, but against Halep’s famous consistency she eventually found her shots breaking down. After trading breaks early on, the pair stayed on serve to bring up a tiebreaker.
Stephens bided her time and stayed on the offensive, her backhand down the line doing the most damage, but Halep picked her off as mistakes in her timing and footwork caused the unforced errors to pile up.
After edging through the opening set, Halep found herself in cruise control and reeled off the next six games in a row with little trouble to wrap up the match after an hour and 19 minutes. Halep and Stephens’ winners count was nearly even at nine and eight, respectively, but Stephens’ 48 unforced errors to Halep’s 23 cost her dearly.
Through to the second round, top seed Halep will take on Mariana Duque-Mariño next for a spot in the Citi Open quarterfinals.