Simona Halep is looking more like the favorite every day during week one of the French Open, on Thursday handling the aggressive, big-hitting German riser Tatjana Maria 6-4, 6-3 while her Top 10-seeded compatriots all struggled.
“It was a difficult match today,” said Halep, who was a bit flustered by the variety of Maria, who had beaten Halep in both their previous encounters eight years ago. “I didn’t expect her to play so high, so at the beginning I was a little insecure. I didn’t know exactly what to do, whether to attack or to step behind the court and just play the same, but then I started to mix it up. I feel my forehand was better than in the first round, but I can still do much more with it. It was a great match for me to win. She was a tough opponent.”
Other Top 10 seeds in action had a more difficult time as No. 2 Karolina Pliskova outlasted Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 4-6, 6-3; No. 5 Elina Svitolina came from a set down to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; and No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska likewise needed a comeback to defeat Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3.
Failing to avoid upsets on Thursday were four of the lower seeds.
Croat qualifier Petra Martic ousted No. 12 Madison Keys 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 after the American was up a set and a break; Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg outlasted No. 16 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4; France’s own Alize Cornet routed No. 20 Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-1; and Poland’s Magda Linette bageled No. 29 Ana Konjuh 6-0, 7-5.
“After a couple of weeks of struggling with my health and not much of a practice, every match win is important,” Radwanska, who missed the last five weeks with a foot injury, said after advancing in three sets to a meeting with Cornet.
Also in the winners column among the lower seeds were No. 14 Elena Vesnina who survived American Varvara Lepchenko 6-0 in the third, No. 17 Anastasija Sevastova who bageled Genie Bouchard in the second set, No. 21 Carla Suarez Navarro, No. 26 Daria Kasatkina, and No. 28 Caroline Garcia.
“Yesterday, I could barely practice,” said Bouchard, who injured her ankle. “I just tried to play because it’s a Slam, but it’s something I need to take time right now to rehab.”
Kasatkina will next square off against Halep.
“I’m excited to play against her,” Halep said. “Always when I’ve played her it’s been a tough match. She has a very topspin forehand, so it’s going to be very heavy. I have to make her run, because she’s a little bit injured — like me!”
Matches to look for on Friday at Roland Garros include defending champ (4) Garbine Muguruza vs. (27) Yulia Putintseva, (11) Caroline Wozniacki vs. teen CiCi Bellis, (8) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. (32) Shuai Zhang, and (23) Sam Stosur vs. (Q) Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
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