ACAPULCO, Mexico - 2016 Acapulco champion Sloane Stephens eased past Pauline Parmentier to make a winning return to the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC.
Stephens, the No.1 seed this year, has enjoyed great success in her recent two visits to the Mexican city: after her 2016 run to the title, she returned last year to reach the quarterfinals.
Playing in her first match at Cancha Central, Stephens likely got a sense of deja vu as she looked across the net. The American leads Parmentier 3-1 in the pair’s head-to-head record, with Stephens’ most recent WTA win coming last year at this very tournament at the same stage.
Last year against Parmentier, Stephens dropped just four games in a one-sided 6-4, 6-0 affair. This time around, Stephens didn’t deviate from the script, powering to a 6-2, 6-2 victory after an hour and nine minutes.
“I felt good out there,” Stephens told press after. “Obviously I like coming back here and playing here. I’m happy to get that first win under my belt after having not played since Australia.
“I’m happy to be playing well and happier to have another chance to get back out on the court.”
Stephens was quick to shake off the rust in her first match since the Australian Open, trading breaks with Parmentier before going up 2-1. Stephens’ powerful groundstrokes dictated play as the American broke for a third time at 5-2 and eased through the set 6-2.
In fact, Stephens reeled off seven games in a row between the first and second set to start with a daunting 4-0 lead and a double break. She had points to extend her lead to 5-0 with another break, but Parmentier - with her back to the wall - held firm and replied emphatically to break instead at 4-2.
Parmentier continued to pile the pressure on Stephens, even as the American got the break back in the next game. The Frenchwoman held a break point that would have extended her stay in the match, but Stephens finally slammed the door shut to serve out the match in straight sets.
Stephens fired two aces and won 68% of points behind her first serve across both sets. She also struck 10 winners against Parmentier’s eight, offset by 21 unforced errors to Parmentier’s 34 - a differential likely affected by the swirling winds in Acapulco.
Up next, Stephens will take on a Brazilian qualifier as she faces Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round. Haddad Maia routed fellow qualifier Irina Bara 6-0 6-2 earlier in the day to advance.