World number one, Simona Halep began the year in emphatic style with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Nicole Gibbs as Maria Sharapova also romped through her first-round match at the Shenzhen Open on Monday.
Halep, who will be seeking her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in two weeks’ time, struck 12 winners to edge Nicole Gibbs in one hour and nine minutes.
“It’s my first victory this year as number one in the world, so I’m just happy and enjoying the time,” the Romanian said.
“We had a big crowd, which was nice to play in front of.
“It’s always nice to play here in Shenzhen. I won a title here three years ago already,” said 2015 champion Halep, who will play China’s Duan Yingying in the next round.
Sharapova, meanwhile, finished off a 6-3, 6-0 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu with a powerful forehand winner.
The Russian, who is embarking on her first full season since returning from a 15-month doping ban in April, sealed her straight sets win after striking 18 winners to 20 unforced errors.
”It’s always nice to start off the year with a victory. Overall I thought, besides a few breaks in the beginning, I really stepped up and finished the match off well,” Sharapova said.
The five-time Grand Slam champion will next play 2017 Shenzhen finalist Alison Riske.