AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Daniela Hantuchova and Sloane Stephens, who both took on new coaches during the off-season, kicked off their years in style with dominant victories in the first round of the ASB Classic on Monday.
"After the pre-season, I couldn't wait to be on court to see where my game was," Hantuchova said. "I was nicely surprised. It seemed like everything worked out.
"Sara is a great fighter and a great player. To have a draw like that in the first round is not easy. I knew I had to be extremely focused for every point because she is very good at turning matches around. I felt like I was moving well and tactically playing the way that I worked on with Carlos."
Hantuchova is competing in Auckland for the first time since 2007.
"I'm so pleased to be back," Hantuchova said. "There are a lot of changes. I'm pleasantly surprised by the facilities. The gym is fantastic. I've gotten a chance to travel around and went to Waiheke the other day. It's been a lot of fun."
As for sixth-seeded Stephens, she surrendered just three points on her first serve in her 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, the same player she lost to in Guangzhou last September to conclude her 2014 season.
Stephens started working with Eugenie Bouchard's former mentor, Nick Saviano, in the off-season.
"The first match of the year is always tough," Zahlavova Strycova said. "I played well in the first set, but in the second set I stopped moving my feet. However, I pulled through and am very happy to win my first match.
"She's very solid from the baseline and moves pretty well. She doesn't give you easy points. You have to work every rally to finish the point, especially at the net, which I did in the third set, and I'm very pleased about that."
A trio of WTA Rising Stars had successful 2015 debuts. Seventeen-year-old Ana Konjuh beat eighth-seeded Mona Barthel, 6-2, 6-1, in just 53 minutes. Eighteen-year-old Taylor Townsend got past 2010 Auckland champion Yanina Wickmayer, 7-5, 3-6, 6-0. And Lauren Davis rallied from a 6-1, 4-0 deficit in her 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of fellow American Shelby Rogers.