MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Third-seeded Simona Halep continued her strong start to the year with a 6-3, 6-2 first-round win over Karin Knapp of Italy at the Australian Open on Monday.
Halep, who opened the season by winning the Shenzen Open in China, was a quarterfinalist at last year's Australian Open, losing to eventual finalist Dominika Cibulkova.
After an early exchange of service breaks, Halep clinched the first set by breaking Knapp's serve. She clinched the match by also breaking Knapp's serve.
The 23-year-old Romanian moved steadily up in the rankings last year, rising as high as No. 2, after winning two titles and making it to the final of the French Open, where she lost to Maria Sharapova.