MOSCOW, Russia - Lucie Safarova advanced to the second round of the Kremlin Cup on Monday after battling past Russian wildcard Margarita Gasparyan.
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Despite the gulf in experience - Gasparyan was appearing in her first WTA main draw - there was little to choose between the two players on Centre Court, and when Safarova failed to close out the match in straight sets, the crowd smelt an upset.
However, a break in the opening game of the third set helped settle the No.8 seed's nerves, and, aided by an imperious serving display - she won 16 of 17 points on her serve in the decider - she confidently closed in on a 63 46 62 win.
"The first rounds are always tough. I had never seen her play before, but she was pumped up and serving very well," Safarova said. "I just kept fighting and although my level fell down a little in the second set, I managed to raise it at the start of the third. I'm happy I won.
"Maybe a little bit more patience and experience got me through in the end. I like the conditions indoors, there is no wind, no sun, and the conditions are nice for the fans as well!"
In the bottom half, 2009 champion Francesca Schiavone's disappointing end to the season continued as she slumped to defeat against Urszula Radwanska.
Schiavone, who has now won just one of her last seven matches, made a bright enough start, breaking serve in the opening game, but it was downhill from then on as Radwanska reeled off 12 of the next 15 games to wrap up a 63 61 victory.
Also progressing was Sofia Arvidsson, after she continued her recent revival with a 62 64 win over Bojana Jovanovski. Arvidsson was a quarterfinalist last week in Linz and carried on from where she left off, coming from a break down in both sets to book a second round meeting with No.2 seed Marion Bartoli.
One of the most intriguing storylines in Moscow is likely to surround the race for the fourth and final doubles spot at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012.
At present Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, the No.2 seeds this week, occupy fourth spot, but Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, who are also in the draw, sit just 32 points adrift.
To secure their place in Turkey, Kirilenko and Petrova need only to equal or better their rivals' result this week, and they made a good start to achieving this goal when they defeated Czech twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova in the first round.
The Russians were made to work hard for their win, though, coming within two points of defeat before eventually prevailing, 64 46 119.