The Serb overcame Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 32 minutes, clenching her fists and breathing a sigh of relief when Bertens sent a final backhand volley into the net after a searching rally.
Ivanovic commended the ball-striking of her opponent, but said there was still plenty to work on from her side of the court as she moved forward in the tournament.
“It was not a great match. I mean, it was a little bit obvious. We had a lot of breaks, a lot of shaky points. I really felt I struggled with my first few steps towards the ball today,” she commented.
“But it's something to improve on to the next match, to get the level. First round is never easy, especially playing opponent I haven't faced before. I didn't know much about her.
“I'm just thrilled to be through and move on to the next round.”
Ivanovic soon found that the 93rd-ranked Bertens would be a handful on Hisense Arena.
Bertens broke serve in the very first game and came very close to securing a 2-0 lead, before Ivanovic won a torrid deuce game to open her account. And that outcome seemed to relax her – she skipped away to a 4-1 lead as her winners combined with Bertens errors made for steady progress for the Serb.
The Dutchwoman appeared in dire straights when she wildly framed a smash into the crowd in the sixth game, but impressively calmed herself down, later landing a wrong-footing forehand winner to hold for 4-2.
After breaking serve to get within a game of Ivanovic, Bertens threatened to level when she got scores to deuce in the eighth game. But a lunging forehand volley winner from Ivanovic, followed by a Bertens error, moved the Serb ahead 5-3.
Serving for the set, Ivanovic double faulted to surrender the game, but went up 0-30 in the next game with a delightful running forehand passing winner.
Soon it was Bertens’ turn to double fault, and unfortunately, it came on set point.
Down a set, things went from bad to worse for the 22-year-old when she required courtside medical attention – due to what appeared to be heat stress – midway through the second game; as she covered herself in packs of ice, the trainer measured her blood pressure and pulse.
And when she finally emerged back on court, a ball fell out of her dress pocket in the middle of a rally, prompting the replaying of the point and a warning from the chair umpire that if it happened again, she’d forfeit a point.
Ivanovic smashed a winner to win the game and level at 1-1, but Bertens, perhaps a little surprisingly given the circumstances, didn’t wilt.
In fact, she even scored a break of serve in the seventh game to lead 4-3, establishing herself in premier position at the business end of the set.
Yet Ivanovic, the 14th seed, summoned consistency when she needed it, and reeled in the Dutchwoman’s lead.
She clinched three straight games to take the set, the match, and a spot in the second round against Annika Beck of Germany; she also took her winning streak to six matches after claiming the title in Auckland in the first week of the season.
“It was a great start to the year. It meant so much to me. I couldn't have asked for a better start,” she said.
“This is a new week, new challenges. First round is still a first round, so just really happy with the victory.”