Nocera, whose 12 Ladies European Tour victories include the 2007 EMAAR-MGF Ladies Masters in Bangalore, India, in 2007, picked up four birdies on the back nine and then a further five on the front nine, including three on her last three holes in warm and calm conditions.
She said she played the tight course like a game of chess, plotting her way between the trees surrounding the fairways and avoiding the foliage inhabited by peacocks and squirrels.
“You can be offensive on this course if you want, but the risk is big,” said Nocera, who recorded her most recent win in China last November. “I felt like I was playing chess, you place the ball and then when you have the opportunity to hit close to the pin you try your best; all the time. You can be offensive on the shot, but not on the strategy.”
Adding that her caddie, Sebastien Clement, was a great help, she said: “I think it’s the kind of course that is good to play a couple of times. We brought notes from last year and I played two practice rounds and tried a couple of things. We came up with a plan and we didn’t change it.”
Three strokes behind Nocera are England’s Holly Clyburn and Vaishavi Sinha from India, who had a pair of six under par 67s. Clyburn is gunning for her second Ladies European Tour victory, after winning last year’s Deloitte Ladies Open in Holland as a rookie.
Clyburn said: “It was nice to be back out there and have some birdies and finish six under. It was really solid and I’m happy with how I played today. I’ve had six weeks off and a little set back with an injury, so I just enjoyed it and got on a roll.
“I played really solid on my first nine, which was the back nine. I should have got the first three in the first three holes but it didn’t happen and I just kept grinding away and made a nice birdie on 13 and then made two nice ones down 17 and 18 and sat on the lip for eagle on 18, so it was nice. I started afresh on the front nine and made a great four down one and followed up with a birdie on two. I settled myself in and made two great ones on four and five. I had a great opportunity on six and it went the other way on me.”
Belgium’s Chloe Leurquin continued her solid play from China, opening with a four under par 69 to lie in fourth place, while the defending champion Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand was in a tie for fifth on three under with England’s Liz Young and Indian trio Shweta Galande, Gauri Monga and Gursimar Badhwal.
Young, who finished fifth in the recent Xiamen Open, was two over after seven holes but picked up six strokes in five holes from the eighth, with an eagle followed by four birdies. She said: “Eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, is the best run I’ve ever had in my life. I’m hitting the ball closer to the hole, so I’m giving myself chances and if I’m on the fairway, I’m giving myself a good chance of birdie because I’ve got a short iron in my hand and I’m hitting my irons well.”
Spanish star Carlota Ciganda was in a tie for 10th on two under par with six other players including Indian pair Sharmila Nicollet and Vani Kapoor. Ciganda was four under par on the back nine but took a triple bogey on her 10th hole, followed by a bogey on 11. However, she recovered with two birdies.
Early in the day, Indian amateur Amandeep Drall, 21, had a hole in one on the par-3 fifth using a 7-iron and she said: “It feels amazing to have my second hole in one. A lot of people are still looking for their first.”
Collated scores after round 1:
64 – Gwladys Nocera (FRA)
67 – Holly Clyburn (ENG) , Vaishavi Sinha (IND)
69 – Chloe Leurquin (BEL)
70 – Liz Young (ENG) , Thidapa Suwannapura (THA) , Shweta Galande (IND) , Gauri Monga (IND) , Gursimar Badhwal (IND)
71 – Vani Kapoor (IND) , Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) , Carlota Ciganda (ESP) , Hannah Burke (ENG) , Sharmila Nicollet (IND) , Fabienne In-albon (SWI) , Bo-Mi Suh (KOR)
72 – Hyeon Seo Kang (KOR) , Sahra Hassan (WAL) , Wichanee Meechai (THA) , Stefania Croce (ITA) , Linda Wessberg (SWE) , Saraporn Chamchoi (THA)
73 – Beth Allen (USA) , Alison Whitaker (AUS) , Smriti Mehra (IND) , Amy Boulden (WAL) , Sally Watson (SCO) , Muangkhumsakul Kanphaninan (THA) , Sophie Sandolo (ITA) , Ye Seul Lee (KOR) , Steffi Kirchmayr (GER) , Nina Holleder (GER)
74 – Hae Ra Park (KOR) , Pennapa Plusawath (THA) , Grace Lee (KOR) , Klara Spilkova (CZE) , Alexandra Vilatte (FRA) , Rhea Nair (IND) , Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro (THA) , Minea Blomqvist (FIN) , Sophie Walker (ENG) , Cathryn Bristow (NZL) , Aditi Ashok (IND) , Eleanor Givens (ENG) , Rebecca Codd (IRL)