Second seed Aryna opens Wimbledon with easy win over qualifier

Belarusian No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka began her Wimbledon title quest with a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu in the first match that got completed under the No.1 Court roof here on Monday.

Aryna, who is the second seed in the absence of Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Romania’s Simona Halep, took one hour and 15 minutes to demolish her Romanian rival and make it to the second round.

The result was Aryna’s only second main-draw win at Wimbledon, and first since defeating Irina Khromacheva of Russia on her 2017 debut. On her last visit in 2019, the Belarusian crashed out in the first round to the grass-court exponent Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

On Monday, the 23-year-old Aryna was in imperious form, slamming 47 winners.

The Romanian’s serve, which averaged just 129 kmph, became target practice for Aryna. The Belarusian hit 15 clean return winners off it, and the third game of the second set saw a desperate Monica send down an underarm serve.

Monica, 33, had last beaten a top-10 player in 2017 (Britain’s Johanna Konta in Beijing), and had lost her first eight matches of 2021. But the grass season has seen her excel with six victories, including qualifying for Wimbledon without dropping a set.

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