Wozniacki, Sharapova off to winning Madrid tennis starts
Madrid: Top seed Caroline Wozniacki began her campaign at the ATP-WTA Madrid Masters on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Japan's Ayumi Morita while two Grand Slam champions, Maria Sharapova and Francesca Schiavone also went through.
But while Wozniacki was doing all the right things, there was disaster for French title holder Aravane Rezai, who lost to Swedish qualifier Sofia Arvidsson 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Wozniacki is trying to break her duck at the Grand Slams after holding the top WTA ranking without the benefit of a title at one of the four majors with the French Open just three weeks ago.
"The first match is tricky, but I felt I played pretty well," said Wozniacki. "I've had quite a lot of practise here."
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone won her first claycourt match of the season, defeating China's Peng Shuai 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) to reach the second round.
The Italian third seed was beaten in her clay start last month in Stuttgart by Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.
But with her Roland Garros title defence starting on May 22, Schiavone got her game back on track in straight sets.
Schiavone spent two hours on court at the Caja Magica complex, facing only two break points from her 30th-ranked Chinese opponent who lost a semi-final on green clay in Charleston early in April.
Eighth seed Maria Sharapova struggled in her first clay contest of the season, with the three-time Grand Slam champion coming through for a defeat of Alexandra Rus of the Netherlands 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The challenger saved a match point on her own serve before the Russian seed moved ahead into the second round on her second winning opportunity.
"She started well and playing aggressive," said the Russian, already training for a week in Madrid. "I was the tentative one and she took advantage.
"But I'm happy I was able to turn it around. It was my first match on clay in some time (almost a year). I was in a similar situation here last year and I lost. I'm happy I came back for the win."
Sharapova finished with a disappointing 37 unforced errors and just 14 winners on the high-altitude clay of the capital.
The eighth seed converted on seven of 14 break points against a teenaged opponent ranked 99th who lost in first round at Marbella and Fez.
Sharapova is still hopeful of improving on her 2007 French Open semi-final placing when the second Grand Slam event of the year rolls around.
"I wasn't even in my best shape when I did it. I've improved a lot in my game, I'm recovering better and I've improved my fitness. It all adds up."
French 11th seed Marion Bartoli saw off Romanian qualifier Simona Halep 6-4, 6-1 while Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova advanced over Japan's 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 6-3.
Defending men's champion Rafael Nadal said that while there is always pressure when he plays in Spain, it's something he has got used to over his years of success in front of his adoring public.
"I had three days off with friends in Mallorca. I only did physical training, no tennis," said the world number one, who has gone undefeated on clay for 34 matches dating to 2009.
"Playing in Spain creates so much pressure, but it is always there when you are playing in front of your people.”
"There is always the danger of losing. My draw is not that favourable, I'm in a hard quarter. But you have to play your best in tournaments at this level, they are never easy."
The only two men's seeds on court both exited with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beating number 10 Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 6-3 and Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez overcoming Swiss 14th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.