Dulgheru had beaten Top 10 players before, four times to be exact, including one right here in Madrid five years ago over Elena Dementieva, and she looked ready to repeat the feat against Ivanovic, reeling off five games in a row to run away with the first set and getting her nose ahead several times in the second set too, twice going up a break – including at 6-5 with a chance to serve for the match.
But the No.7-seeded Ivanovic shifted into another gear from there, breaking back, cruising through the tie-break and storming out to a 4-0 lead in the third. Dulgheru’s struggles with cramping became too much at that point and she had to retire from the match, handing Ivanovic a 2-6, 7-6(1), 4-0 win.
“I thought I started the match really well, but then I really dropped my level,” Ivanovic said after the match. “She definitely raised hers – she wasn’t making any errors. But after working hard through that second set I was feeling more confident, and I definitely raised my level again in the third set.
“I’m really happy to be through and to have an opportunity to improve for my next match.”
Ivanovic was asked what exactly she’d like to improve going into the next match.
“I’m definitely going to try and raise my overall level a little bit,” the former World No.1 said.
“I’ll be working on my footwork and the adjustments there, and staying more consistent.”
She was also asked how it felt to return to center court at the Magic Box. “It’s great. It’s a really nice court. There are always so many people coming to see us. We all definitely feel that support.”
Ivanovic’s next opponent isn’t known yet – it’ll be either Elina Svitolina or Daniela Hantuchova, who play their first round on Sunday. Svitolina, one of the leading WTA Rising Stars, is fresh off her first WTA title on clay at the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Marrakech (read more here).