MIAMI, FL, USA - Apart from her two Grand Slams, Svetlana Kuznetsova's biggest triumph to date came right here in Miami six years ago, as she beat three former World No.1s en route to the title. But Iveta Benesova made sure that would not happen again this year, battling from the brink of defeat to beat the former World No.2 in almost three hours in a Court 3 nail-biter.
Benesova, who at age 29 is playing some of the best tennis of her career - she has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open the last two years, her first times getting to the second week of a Slam - had never faced Kuznetsova on the WTA and seemed overwhelmed with her all-court game at first, dropping the opening set 6-1 in just 29 minutes, losing five straight games from 1-all.
But Benesova went right to work from there, staying even with Kuznetsova in the 70-minute second set and eventually closing it out in a tie-break on her seventh set point, then doing the same thing in the 72-minute third set, this time saving two match points in the breaker to clinch the victory, 16 76(7) 76(7).
Kuznetsova was playing in Miami for the 10th time, but this was her first time losing her opening match. In addition to her 2006 title she was a semifinalist in 2008 (losing to Serena Williams) and 2009 (losing to Victoria Azarenka).
No.26-seeded Kuznetsova wasn't the only seed to lose, with Jelena Jankovic, Julia Goerges, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Sara Errani also going out on the first day of second round play.
No.29 seed Petra Cetkovska almost joined that list in the very last match of the day but pulled off a miracle comeback to stay alive, rallying from 60 40 down to beat American rising star Christina McHale, 06 75 61. After losing the first 10 games of the match, Cetkovska won 13 of the last 15 games to prevail.
"I think the score early on was a bit too strict, like the first set seemed closer than 6-0," Cetkovska said. "In the middle of the second set, when I was down 3-0 or 4-1, I changed my game a little bit. I took more risks and played a bit more aggressively, and then the game changed completely. Things that were missing in the first set were starting to go in and the match started turning around.
"When I was down 60 40 it wasn't lost. There were still more games to play."
No.2 seed Maria Sharapova, No.4 seed Caroline Wozniacki, No.6 seed Samantha Stosur and No.8 seed Li Na all won through to make Top 10 players 4-0 on the day. Wozniacki played at night, grinding out a 61-minute first set and then completely rolling over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the second set, winning five of the six games at love or at 15 to win, 64 60.
"I was struggling a little bit with the rhythm out there today," Wozniacki said of the tougher moments in the match. "Barbora's the kind of player who doesn't really give you too much rhythm - but I'm just happy I was able to make it through this one, and I'm hoping I can play better in my next round."
Zahlavova Strycova has three Top 15 wins but is now 0-20 against the Top 10.
Next up for Wozniacki is Cetkovska. "We played in the New Haven final last year," Cetkovska said. "She's a great player. I will try my best against her."
That New Haven match, which Wozniacki won, is their only prior meeting.
Four former World No.1s were in action during the afternoon session, with three of them winning and one getting knocked out - read more about them here.