Top-seeded Angelique Kerber overcame a poor start to beat Monica Niculescu of Romania 0-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of the Generali Ladies on Wednesday.
The 10th-ranked German struggled for rhythm and won just five points on her own serve as she lost the opening set in 22 minutes. Kerber settled after an early break in the second and conceded just three games in the remainder of the match.
“I just wasn’t there in the first set. I was too nervous.” Kerber said. “I am happy that I managed to turn the match around.”
Kerber was given a late wild-card entry to replace Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic after the former Wimbledon champion pulled out with a back injury.
Kerber leads the competition for the eighth and final spot at the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul. She needs a semi-final place this week or a quarter-final in Moscow next week to secure it.
“I try not to think about that,” Kerber said. “I want to focus on my next match and have fun on the court without added pressure.”
In the second round, Kerber faces another player from Romania, Alexandra Cadantu, who beat Melanie Klaffner of Austria 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
Two-time former champion Ana Ivanovic reached her fourth quarter-final of the season by defeating Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-3, 7-5. In a match between two former French Open champions, the third-seeded Ivanovic was more consistent in her ground strokes, while Schiavone double-faulted nine times.
“Francesca is a great player and it was a tough match,” Ivanovic said.
The 2008 and 2010 champion next plays seventh-seeded Dominika Cibulkova or Katarzyna Piter of Poland.
Earlier, seeded players Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium also advanced to the quarter-finals.
No. 4 Suarez Navarro defeated Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-1, 6-4 to reach the last eight for the first time since her 6-0, 6-0 defeat by Serena Williams at the US Open five weeks ago. In her seventh quarter-final of the season, Suarez Navarro will play No. 5 Flipkens, who routed Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 6-1.
In first-round play, Karin Knapp of Italy overcame six double faults to defeat 2007 champion Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-2, 7-6 (8/6).