Piece of cake for Halep to mark birthday in style

Former champion celebrates turning 29 with a ruthless display to extend undefeated run.

Simona Halep, Roland Garros 2020, first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

A happy 29th birthday for a happy Simona Halep

The top seed and 2018 Roland-Garros champion ignited her title challenge with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over world No.70 Sara Sorribes Tormo on Sunday.

It was an extra special present for Halep, who posted her 15th consecutive match victory in the first women’s match under the newly unveiled Court Philippe-Chatrier roof.

“Yeah, it feels very special. I feel very honoured to play the first round under the roof. It’s a unique moment for me, playing here on my birthday, playing at Roland-Garros,” beamed the world No.2, unbeaten since the Australian Open semi-finals. 

“Forever I will keep it. I just want to enjoy today because it’s really special.” 

Sorribes Tormo is an accomplished clay-court player, exemplified by an emphatic Billie Jean King Cup triumph over US Open champion Naomi Osaka back in February.

In similar fashion, the Spaniard took to court and managed to absorb all of Halep’s initial strikes. The 24-year-old was proving to be a tricky opponent, looping up her forehand, while slicing and dicing off the backhand wing. 

That concoction kept Halep off kilter and Sorribes Tormo jumped to 4-2.

The top seed was looking increasingly frustrated, but from this point Halep banished the relatively tentative play, and ramped up the pace of shot.

A forehand drive volley while sliding over the tramlines was exceptional from the Romanian as 10 successive games rapidly fell her way off the back of 23 winners.

Having strung Sorribes Tormo from side to side she soared into the second round and was treated to the crowd's rendition of Happy Birthday - in French, of course.

“I’m really pleased with the victory. It’s always really tough to start the tournament. I’ve been a little bit nervous and she played really well in the first set, didn’t really miss,” assessed the 29-year-old.

"Also, her ball is coming a little bit higher and with a lot of topspin, so it's not easy to play from up to the shoulder.

"I found my rhythm, started to open up the court better and not going for everything. Oh and the drop shots. I changed, worked for every ball. I had a plan B and it worked very well for me today.”

The reigning Wimbledon champion is buoyed by her continued on-court success, particularly from a mental perspective.

“I think I improved a lot. I'm more mature on the court. I am more calm. Yeah, I feel very good on court. I'm relaxed. I'm just trying to give my best every time. Actually, I don't give up any points. So, I think I changed a lot in the last 12 months.”

Next up for the top seed is Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann or compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu.