SYDNEY, Australia - Seven Top 10 players were in action Monday as the first round of the Apia International Sydney continued, but only five of them made it into the second round - Sam Stosur and Vera Zvonareva were ousted.
Zvonareva was the first to go. Playing her first match of the season, the No.6 seed was broken in five of her seven service games and never quite got her rhythm in a 61 62 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Both Russians are former World No.2s - Kuznetsova now leads their head-to-head series, 8-4.
Stosur, the No.5 seed and the recipient of perhaps the toughest first round draw, was the next seed to fall, losing to No.11-ranked Francesca Schiavone, 62 64. Stosur, who became Australia's first Grand Slam champion in over 30 years when she won the US Open last year and is hoping to bring that momentum to her home major, lost serve five times in losing to the Italian veteran.
"You're never in control with Sam. You never know what she can do," Schiavone said. "She's strong and fast and puts a lot of pressure on you. When she comes inside the court there's no way to defend - live or die. But I played aggressively and she couldn't play her best. It was closer than the score shows, though."
"I think Francesca played aggressively. I was trying to do that as well, but what I didn't do well is exactly what I just said," Stosur said afterwards in her press conference. "But something my coach just tried to drum into my head is that I've had two pretty disappointing tournaments, but I've also had that in previous years and then got to Melbourne and played better and handled it better.
"I have a week to go, and hopefully that's going to be the same this year."
The other five Top 10 players in action all won in straight sets. Victoria Azarenka, the No.3 seed, beat Stefanie Voegele, 62 61; No.4 seed Li Na kicked off her title defense with a 60 63 victory over Ekaterina Makarova; No.7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat sister Urszula Radwanska, 61 61; No.8 seed Marion Bartoli got past Polona Hercog, 63 63; and Andrea Petkovic, ranked No.10 and out of the seeds, beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 62 63.
"Today I did well, but I don't think Makarova was playing her best tennis, especially in the first set," said Li, who became the first Chinese player ever to win a Premier-level title here last year. "I was happy about how I was moving today. Maybe I need to work a little bit more on my serve, because in the second set my serve wasn't working so well. It wasn't easy today."
Li was actually leading 60 30 when Makarova caught up to 3-all - but the momentum swung back into Li's favor for the last three games. "After she got back to 3-all, I knew I had to stand up, otherwise it might go three sets."
Dulgheru scored a 61 61 win over Swedish qualifier Sofia Arvidsson - the same player she had lost to a day earlier in the final round of qualies, in a three-hour, 24-minute marathon, 67(6) 76(2) 75. She had to save match point in that match - needless to say it was a rare rematch to square off again a day later.
"Yesterday I had some pain in my knees and couldn't serve really well. I was just trying to put the ball in and made a lot of double faults," Dulgheru said. "Today I was a bit worried because I didn't know how my body would feel. I felt good - not 100%, but I think she was tired from yesterday. I just stayed in it.
"I struggled a lot last year with my knees. I didn't know what to do. I could play games and sets but sometimes it would be too much. Even though I still have some issues, my limit is much higher now. I'm feeling much better."
"It's the weirdest thing ever!" Dulgheru said of the Arvidsson coincidence.