SYDNEY: Svetlana Kuznetsova opened the defence of her Sydney International title with a comfortable 6-1 6-4 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu yesterday as the Australian Open warm-up event suffered a pair of big-name withdrawals.
The Russian fifth seed started strongly by winning 10 of the first 11 games and after her Romanian opponent rallied in the second set to tie it up at 4-4, Kuznetsova broke again in the ninth game and served out the victory in 77 minutes.
“I started the year quite good with the feeling,” the 31-year-old double Grand Slam winner told reporters.
Kuznetsova will next face the winner of the match between local favourite Sam Stosur and fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Elsewhere, Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, a former Wimbledon finalist, also won her opening match with a 7-6(1) 6-2 first round win over China’s Zhang Shuai.
However, fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, who will climb to world number five following her Brisbane title win on Saturday, will not be able to aim for back-to-back victories after she pulled out of the event with a left inner thigh injury.
The Czech was joined on the sidelines by Ukraine’s world number 14 Elina Svitolina, who withdrew citing a viral illness.
With the Australian Open tennis starting in a week’s time in Melbourne, Frenchwoman Alize Cornet also decided against risking a sore back and pulled out of the Hobart International, which she won last year.