By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
Playing her first match as the reigning Citi Open women’s champion, Jessica Pegula looked the part Monday. The World No.7 never faced a break point as she held off DC native Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 6-2 in 73 minutes on John Harris Court.
“It was definitely tough playing Hailey today,” Pegula said. “I know she's a local favorite, super nice girl, really talented, can play really well at times.”
Pegula earned her maiden title at the 2019 Citi Open and returns this week as the No.1 seed. She is also competing for the first time as the No.1 American.
“Definitely a little nervous going out there, kind of feeling your way through the match,” she said of her DC return. “I thought I did a good job of applying pressure right from the beginning, being able to break a couple times early, keep that momentum with me.”
Pegula has now won six consecutive matches in DC and will next face Daria Saville of Australia in a second-round match Wednesday. Saville rallied to beat Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund 3-6, 7-5, 7-6.
Pegula has a full itinerary this week as she is also partnering with Erin Routliffe in women’s doubles. The No.1 seeds in the WTA doubles draw will face Sabrina Santamaria and Heather Watson at 12 p.m. Tuesday in the opening match on Court 5.
Pegula is the rare Top-10 singles player that keeps a relatively consistent doubles workload. Now ranked a career-high No.12 in doubles, Pegula recently reached the French Open final while partnering with Coco Gauff.
“I think it's good to get extra matches in,” she said of her dedication to doubles. “Personally I just love playing. If I start playing doubles, I'm going to finish the tournament. I'm not going to pull out because of singles or anything like that. I think that's a commitment that you have to make.”
HALEP MOVES ON:
Elsewhere in women’s singles, former World No.1 Simona Halep christened the tournament on Stadium Court with a 6-3, 7-5 triumph over Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa.
Competing for the first time since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon last month, Halep will next face either Washington Kastles alum Madison Brengle or Anna Kalinskaya in the Round-of-16. Brengle and Kalinskaya will meet in their opening match at 12 p.m. Tuesday in the first match on Court 4.
Others to advance Monday in women’s singles include Lin Zhu, and Donna Vekic. Vekic beat No.7 seed Mayar Sherif 6-4, 6-1.
In women’s doubles, Americans Sloane Stephens and Makenna Jones won their opening match, while the No.3-seeds Monica Niculescu and Lucie Hradeka beat the teenage-tandem of Emma Raducanu and Clara Tauson 6-4, 6-1 on John Harris Court.