Doha – World No 2 Simona Halep won easily on her return to competitive action since losing the Australian Open final, beating Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets in the Qatar Open on Wednesday.
Halep eased through 6-3, 6-0 against the Russian, in a second round match lasting just 71 minutes. She received a bye in the first round.
The Romanian raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set before Makarova, the world No 36, showed some defiance by breaking Halep’s serve and threatening a comeback.
Halep, who hit 13 winners, rallied and then stormed through the second set without losing a game.
Doha represents Halep’s return since last month’s heartbreaking loss in the Australian final as she has been nursing an ankle injury.
The injury forced her out of Romania’s Fed Cup tie with Canada last weekend.
The woman who beat her in Melbourne and also claimed Halep’s world No 1 ranking at the same time, Caroline Wozniacki, is on court later on Wednesday.
Halep has the possibility of reclaiming the world’s top ranking this week if she reaches at least the quarter-finals and goes one round further than Wozniacki.
Also through to the third round is Petra Kvitova.
The Czech star battled back from a set down to beat Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4.
“I have no idea, first of all, how I turned it around. I felt pretty exhausted,” said double Wimbledon champion Kvitova.
“Not like physically but most like mentally.
“It’s pretty tiring all these matches. But you know, on the other hand, I’m very proud of myself that I won it.”
Results from the WTA Qatar Open in Doha on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):
Elina Svitolina (UKR x3) bt Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-2, 6-4
Petra Kvitova (CZE x16) bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4
Anna Blinkova (RUS) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA x11) 6-3, 6-3
Catherine Bellis (USA) bt Madison Keys (USA x12) 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x13) bt Naomi Osaka (JPN) 6-4, 6-1
Simona Halep (ROM x2) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 6-3, 6-0