Sharapova, Kuznetsova open with wins

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Russian stars Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova began their respective 2011 campaigns Monday with easy first-round wins at the ASB Classic.

The top-seeded Sharapova cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italian lucky-loser Alberta Brianti, while the third-seeded Kuznetsova rolled to a 6-4, 6-2 triumph over wild card Sacha Jones of New Zealand in just 85 minutes.

Sharapova faced six break points and saved four against an opponent she hadn't planned on facing. Brianti lost in the final round of qualifying but made the main draw after No. 5 seed Anastasija Sevastova withdrew because of an illness. Carla Suarez Navarro, who was originally scheduled to play Sharapova, moved to the No. 9 seed.

In a minor upset, sixth-seeded Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm was upended by Ukrainian wild card Kateryna Bondarenko 6-4, 6-3.

Also Monday, China's Peng Shuai topped Sweden's Johanna Larson 6-1, 6-3; Britain's Anne Keothavong rallied past Romania's Edina Gallovits 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-0; and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic came back from a set down to beat Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-0.

Tuesday's schedule includes a first-round matchup between defending champion Yanina Wickmayer, this year's No. 2 seed, and former world No. 1 Dinara Safina. Wickmayer bested Italian Flavia Pennetta in last year's Auckland finale.

The Auckland tournament serves as a tune-up to the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 17 in Melbourne.


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