AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Flavia Pennetta got her 2012 season off to a winning start in Auckland on Monday, winning a tight two-setter against Sorana Cirstea in the first round of the ASB Classic. Sabine Lisicki also won.
Pennetta, a former finalist at the International-level tournament and this year's No.4 seed, rallied from 3-1 down in the second set and regrouped after missing two match points at 5-4, eventually finishing off the young Romanian, 64 76(5).
"It's nice to be back," said Pennetta, who was a runner-up here in 2010 to Yanina Wickmayer. "I've got good memories from the ASB Classic. There are a few nice changes to the facilities this year and I'm happy to be here."
Next up for Pennetta is British No.1 Elena Baltacha, who beat New Zealand's Sacha Jones later in the day in a see-saw three-setter, 62 46 63.
Pennetta is not only the No.4 seed in singles this week, but in doubles as well - alongside Julia Goerges. "I like playing both," she said. "Doubles has become really important to me as well. I will be playing the Olympics with Francesca Schiavone this year so we'll be playing a few tournaments together too."
At night, No.1 seed Lisicki fended off former Top 20 player Virginie Razzano, surviving some trying moments early in the second set - she was down 2-0, a point away from 3-0 - but eventually closing her out in straight sets, 64 64.
Awaiting Lisicki in the second round will be fellow German Mona Barthel, who needed six set points to clinch the first set then rolled against Jelena Dokic in the second set, cruising to a 76(5) 61 victory over the Australian star.
Other winners on Day 1 were Christina McHale, Sara Errani and Lucie Hradecka. Hradecka had the best serving day of them all, firing 10 aces during a 64 36 62 triumph over Italian veteran Alberta Brianti; McHale was also impressive, taking out young Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru handily, 62 63.
"I am pretty pleased with my play for my first match back. I'm excited," McHale commented. "It's also nice to see other Americans in the draw now."
Aravane Rezai, Alison Riske, Jamie Hampton and Karolina Pliskova made the main draw with wins in the final round of qualies. Riske and Hampton, both 21, joined the 19-year-old McHale as the only Americans in the main draw.