Azarenka beats Kuznetsova on blue clay in Madrid
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and second-seeded Maria Sharapova advanced to the second round of the Madrid Open with straight-set wins Sunday on the event's new blue-clay court.
Azarenka beat Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a tough opening match.
The Australian Open champion and Kuznetsova traded breaks in the first set. Just when it looked as if the second set was going to end in another tiebreaker, Azarenka broke again to close out the match.
"It was a really close match, so I was just happy that I won because they were difficult games to break," said Azarenka, who added that the differences between the new surface and traditional red clay were not limited to color.
"It is pretty slippery. The bounce is different which changes everything completely already. It's just a completely different thing."
Azarenka, last year's runner-up, has won four titles this year. She will play Andrea Hlavackova or Anastasia Rodionova in the next round.
Sharapova had an easier debut with a comfortable 6-0, 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu.
Sharapova stormed to an early lead by winning the first seven games. After Begu saved a match point the Romanian player had a double break chance, but Sharapova saved both points to hold serve and secure a second-round meeting with Klara Zakopalova.
Also, sixth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki served six aces in a 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-4 win over Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan.
Fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska didn't give up a single break chance in her 6-3, 6-1 win over Lara Arruabarrena-Veci.
The 12th-seeded Angelique Kerber beat Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-4 to advance to a second-round match with Venus Williams, while 13th-seeded Ana Ivanovic brushed by Mathilde Johansson of France 6-4, 6-1.
Roberta Vinci of Italy defeated 14th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-2, and American Varvara Lepchenko upset 11th seed Francesca Schiavone 6-4, (8) 6-7, 6-3.
Other winners included Shahar Peer, Yanina Wickmayer, Maria Kirilenko, Nadia Petrova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and local favorites Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Anabel Medina Garrigues.
In men's first-round action, Nicolay Davydenko beat Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (4), 6-3 and will now face second-seeded Rafael Nadal.
Kevin Anderson of South Africa downed Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia, 6-3, 6-2 and will play sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych.