Montreal: Svetlana Kuznetsova, the first Russian woman to win the US Open, flashed her hardcourt pedigree Tuesday by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in an all-Russian first-round clash at the Montreal Cup.
A victory over a 19-year-old opponent who has won more hardcourt matches this season than any other player will not make Kuznetsova a favourite at Flushing Meadows later this month but evidence continues to mount that she will be among the contenders.
The 25-year-old Kuznetsova launched her North American hardcourt campaign in style, claiming a 13th career title with a victory in San Diego two weeks ago.
But she followed that brilliant performance with a dud, losing her opening match in Cincinnati to compatriot Maria Sharapova.
That defeat, however, appears to have been little more than a hiccup in Kuznetsova`s US Open buildup, the 11th seed saying she has quickly rediscovered her form and confidence.
"Before, I was more aggressive, I was going for the balls and I think I have that back," Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, told reporters. "I feel like I`m back, I`m back in my game and it all depends on me.”
"I was struggling and not knowing what to do on the court.”
"I am glad that (period) is finished. I am now confident."
In other first-round action on a blustery day at Stade Uniprix, 10th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus demolished Ukraine`s Kateryna Bondarenko 6-1, 6-1 while Italian 15th seed Flavia Pennetta rolled past Slovakia`s Daniela Hantuchova 6-0, 7-5.
American teenager Melanie Oudin, who became the darling of Flushing Meadows last year for an unlikely march to the quarter-finals, continued her uninspired buildup to this year`s US Open by falling to compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 6-4.
The setback marked the second consecutive week the 18-year-old has exited in the opening round.
Oudin stunned Russians Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to reach the last eight last year in New York but has only three wins in her last nine events.