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Kirilenko Returns, Kuznetsova Rebounds

Maria Kirilenko made a winning comeback to the courts as the seeds stepped out at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. Elsewhere, Sara Errani scored her WTA-leading 19th match win of the year.

Published March 08, 2013 12:00

Kirilenko Returns, Kuznetsova Rebounds
Maria Kirilenko

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - The seeds stepped out for the first time this fortnight on a cold and windy Friday at the BNP Paribas Open - for some of them it was a harsh transition, while for some it wasn't.

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Among the early winners was No.13 seed Maria Kirilenko, who battled back from a set and a break down to beat Christina McHale, 46 64 61, in her first match back from a right shoulder injury lay-off.

"I was out for four weeks - I got injured in Doha, withdrew from Dubai and didn't practice for 10 days," Kirilenko said. "It's always difficult to start again after such a long time off. The injury is good now, though. And before this I was in Washington where it was freezing, and I practiced outside there, so I was used to these cold conditions. So it wasn't too much of an adjustment for me, really!"

Kirilenko was in Washington with her fiancé, NHL star Alex Ovechkin. "He proposed to me on December 31st," she said. "We actually met at the US Open. He was in New York for a couple of days for a photo shoot, and his agent said they should watch some tennis and they had seats, so he came. I was warming up with Nadia before our doubles match and he came up and talked to us, asking us if we were players - that's where it started. We haven't decided on a wedding day yet, but it'll work out.

"He's a good tennis player. He travelled with us in the summer and played every day with my father."

The No.15-ranked Kirilenko has actually put her doubles career on hold with one specific goal in mind. "I have a goal to break the Top 10 in singles, so by not playing doubles I'll hopefully have more energy to do that. Last year I played so much doubles and did very well, but I have to at least try this."

Another seed - No.27 seed Sorana Cirstea - won by a similar scoreline, rallying from a 64 31 deficit to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues, 46 63 61. "I had never beaten Anabel before, so it was a big win for me and I'm really happy," Cirstea said. "It was my first match here. The conditions were tough and I was down a set and 3-1, but I still won in the end. Overall I'm really happy - it was a positive day."

Follow along with Cirstea during the spring American swing in her WTA Player Blog, Sori's Story...

Other seeds moving on early on were No.5 seed Petra Kvitova, No.6 seed Sara Errani, No.12 seed Dominika Cibulkova and No.14 seed Roberta Vinci. Kvitova and Errani both had to go three sets, Kvitova beating Olga Govortsova, 64 36 63, and Errani over Lourdes Domínguez Lino, 62 36 63.

The first few upsets saw Svetlana Kuznetsova bounce back from a first set blowout and bounce No.18 seed Jelena Jankovic, 06 62 75; Johanna Larsson take out No.26 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 75 61; and Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko beat No.31 seed Yaroslava Shvedova, 61 36 61.

Kuznetsova was playing Jankovic for the 12th time, and they are now an even 6-6 in the head-to-head.

"Jelena and I always have long rallies - I know I can win them, but it's hard, and she's always going to be there putting balls back," Kuznetsova said. "I had no pressure though. She's seeded; I'm not seeded. I have no pressure this year at all. Actually, overall I was thinking I don't want to have any pressure in my life, that I feel much better without pressure. I'll try to keep things this way.

"I was pretty bad in the first set, but I managed to change it and I'm happy I made it today."

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