LONDON (REUTERS) – French open finalist Simona Halep found her grasscourt rhythm to beat qualifier Marina Erakovic 6-4 6-1 and take the first step towards a title that is wide open in the absence of 2016 champion Serena Williams.
Halep, one of the pre-tournament favourites in Paris, was beaten in three sets by Jelena Ostapenko and said last week she was still thinking about that missed opportunity as she fell asleep.
But with Serena, who secured her 23rd slam in Australia, expecting her first child, Halep is again one of the names being talked up for Wimbledon and a first grand slam.
“I feel that everyone has a chance here, like in the French Open,” she told reporters.
The Romanian, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2014, is one of four women who could top the rankings after the grasscourt slam. Halep will climb from number two if she reaches at least the quarter-finals and other results go her way.
But despite such prizes in reach, she said she felt only “positive pressure” after dispatching the world 129 New Zealander in the first round.
She broke in the first set with a mighty backhand winner down the line when Erakovic was serving at 2-2, before powering through the second set, setting the tone by breaking at the first opportunity.
“In the end, I found the rhythm, and I hope I have it now for the next round,” she said.
“Here on grass, every day you play, every match you play, it’s like a big plus for your game, and you get used more and more.”
Halep faces Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, ranked 97th in the world, in round two after she beat Britain’s Laura Robson.
“I will see what I have to do against her. It’s nothing special. It’s just a match. I have just to do my best tennis to win it,” Halep said.