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Sharapova & Kvitova Make Winning Starts

Defending champion Maria Sharapova won a two-hour, 12-minute grinder with Christina McHale.

Published May 15, 2012 12:00

Sharapova & Kvitova Make Winning Starts
Maria Sharapova

ROME, Italy - Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova made winning starts at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Tuesday, both squeaking through to the second round of the Premier-level event with hard-fought straight set wins.

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The No.4-seeded Kvitova was the first to advance, rallying from a break down in both sets to edge one of her toughest rivals, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 75 64. The pair had split their four previous meetings, 2-2, and all four of them had gone to three sets - but Kvitova broke her pattern with the Russian in Rome.

"I have to say I was nervous before the match," Kvitova said. "I saw how she was playing in her last match, and also I lost the last time I played her, which wasn't a nice memory going into this one. It was tough for me at the beginning but I'm happy I won and I have things to improve on for the next match."

Kvitova is hoping to find her form again in Rome this week, having fallen early in Madrid last week. But her clay court season did get off to a good start at another Premier-level event in Stuttgart, where she scored straight set wins over Francesca Schiavone and Angelique Kerber en route to the semifinals.

"I played very well in Stuttgart," Kvitova commented. "It was strange conditions in Madrid. I wasn't able to play my game against Hradecka, because all the points were only about one shot and she did better that day. But so far here I'm feeling good and I'm looking forward to playing more matches now."

Maria Sharapova, the No.2 seed and defending champion this week, trailed in both sets too, most notably a deep 4-1 hole in the first set, but managed to out-hit the tenacious Christina McHale in a two-hour, 12-minute grinder, 75 75.

"It was really about adjusting today," Sharapova declared. "I made too many unforced errors in the first part of the match and she was playing extremely consistently. Maybe I was trying to hit too many winners then. But I was fortunate enough to win that first set and get back into it in the second set.

"It was close. She has certainly improved since last time I played her."

Sharapova has won 17 of her last 19 matches on clay, a stretch that includes two Premier-level titles, here last year and at Stuttgart earlier this year.

This title last year remains her biggest clay court triumph to date - and she has been trying to learn some of the home language from fiancé Sasha Vujacic.

"I have a fiancé who speaks good Italian, and he's always telling me what to say and how to pronounce it," Sharapova said. "It's tough to learn it. I'm stubborn, and he tells me how to pronounce it. I can say dove vai, cosa fai, come stai, and also cosa mangiamo. E andiamo... that's very important in my life."

Next for Sharapova is No.13 seed Ana Ivanovic or Spanish qualifier Sílvia Soler-Espinosa; next for Kvitova will be Sofia Arvidsson or Sorana Cirstea.

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