MADRID, Spain - No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki made an emphatic start to her week at the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday, as she won nine of the last 10 games to defeat Daria Gavrilova, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.
"I think I performed pretty well today. I think it's the best clay match I've had so far this year," Wozniacki told WTA Insider after the match. "I'm really happy with that. Daria likes the clay and she mixes up the pace, but I was happy to win the big points."
Playing her first match since seeing her first clay court campaign end prematurely, the Australian Open champion showed no signs of the abdominal injury which forced her to retire in the quarterfinals of the Istanbul Cup a little over a week ago.
"I strained my ab muscle there, and it was starting to get worse. I would have to hit a lot of high balls, stretched out, and that didn't really help me," she said.
"I decided that it was better...to just keep it as a strain. With a few days rest and treatment, I was hoping it was going to get better. It felt good today, so I was happy with that."
From 3-3 in the opening set after the pair traded breaks, Wozniacki had the match nearly all her own way on, and advanced to the second round in 89 minutes.
The Dane held the edge in all statistical categories over the course of the first round encounter, as Gavrilova struggled with seven double faults and 27 unforced errors overall.
Conversely, Wozniacki struck 21 winners to just 15 unforced errors, landed a sparkling 76 percent of her first serves, and converted on five of her nine break point opportunities.
"It's not easy on clay...I think that great shots don’t always get rewarded. I feel they do on hard court or grass," Wozniacki assessed. "I play good points, I know what to expect, I feel ahead and comfortable - and sometimes on clay, you can hit five, six, seven good shots in a row and it's just not doing as much. I feel like it evens out the playing field a little bit.
"It's all about being mentally ready to grind and not expecting to win any easy matches or easy points."
The second set saw Wozniacki win the first four games, though Gavrilova put up strong resistance throughout.
The Aussie No.2 was unable to convert on any of five break points she built for herself in the set in a pair of marathon Wozniacki service games, and dropped serve three times herself to fall to Wozniacki for a second time in their careers.
The 27-year-old has a chance to return to the World No.1 ranking this week, should she outperform two-time champion Simona Halep at the Caja Mágica in the Spanish capital.
However, the road back to the top won't get any easier for the year's first Grand Slam champion, as she'll next face the winner of the match between former French Open finalist Sara Errani and Ashleigh Barty.