Auckland: Former world number two Svetlana Kuznetsova produced virtually error-free tennis to eliminate Alison Riske from the Auckland Classic on Tuesday, while former champion Yanina Wickmayer also easily moved into the second round.
Third seed Kuznetsova, who has been blighted by injury and poor form for the best part of two years, has slipped down the rankings and needed a couple of games to get into the groove on the blue hardcourts, and then showed glimpses of the form that propelled her to two grand slam titles.
Riske took the early advantage in both sets before Kuznetsova found her range and began to take over with her serve and booming forehand to run out a 6-3, 6-2 winner in just 75 minutes to set up a second round clash with another American, Christina McHale.
"I missed playing matches, it`s been about one-and a-half months out," Kuznetsova said. "I was a bit slow to start but I was calm and in the end I think I showed a pretty good game."
Seventh-seed Wickmayer, who won the title in 2010 and made the final last year was shunted to an outside court for her opening match but also wasted little time in advancing to the second round with 6-3, 6-4 victory over Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in little over an hour.
Second seed Peng Shuai of China, however, had to battle against France`s Aravane Rezai before she advanced to the second round with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Peng had numerous troubles against qualifier Rezai in the first set and was looking in further trouble in the second before she kicked into gear and began to dominate from the baseline with heavy groundstrokes.
Rezai became visibly frustrated in the third set, talking to herself and arguing with her coach, before Peng took advantage of her three match points to run out the winner in a shade under two hours when the Frenchwoman`s return of serve ballooned out.
"First match and I was little nervous and it was really difficult to get into the match," Peng said in a courtside interview.
"I was tired and started so slowly in the first set and I was trying to tell myself to move quicker but she hit the ball so well, it was like `boom`, `boom` and I was like `oh`."