h tournament after the just-completed US Open got underway with the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. The highest seeds in action were 10th seed Elena Rybakina and 11th seed Elise Mertens and both were victorious.
Not as fortunate were 13th seed Alison Riske and 16th seed Donna Vekic, who were both upset. Only two Italian women were in action and they split with Jasmine Paolini advancing while Camila Giorgi was eliminated in a three-set thriller by Dayana Yastremska.
Rybakina needed just 61 minutes to dispatch Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-0, 6-4, getting revenge after losing twice to the Russian earlier this year. The 10th seed won the first nine games of the match and also claimed 87 percent of her first serves.
"I am happy because I played against her already twice", she said following the match. "It's a different surface and of course I know how she plays, I had tactics before the match that I followed."
Despite the scoreline, Rybakina insisted that the victory wasn't as easy as the score would indicate it to be. "It was not easy because I just came from America and I am jetlagged. I had one week to prepare on clay and it's not enough.
"Usually it takes a longer time, but we have to adjust. But i'm happy to play matches and the more I play the better for me. Every match I will find my rhythm and also move better on clay, because it's completely different [to hard courts]."
Mertens had an equally comfortable victory over Su-wei Hsieh, knocking out the Taiwanese 6-3, 6-1 in 72 minutes. The Belgian, who reached the US Open quarterfinals, jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and watched as Hsieh struck back, taking the next three games.
In a set of streaks, it was Mertens who took the last four games of the opener and sealed her place in the second round after winning six games on the bounce following a break by Hsieh to open up the second set.
"I'm not sure how well I adapted to be honest!" she said candidly after the match. "I just feel like I might be struggling a little. It was also her first match of the week, so that was a bit of an advantage for me. Going from hard to clay is a little difficult with the sliding and timing, but I tried to give everything I had today.
"The second set was definitely better than the first for me, but it wasn't my best game. I think I did everything well today. My serve was better in the second set, which made all the difference."