Vera hangs on and wins first match back

The seeds made a strong beginning at the Mercury Insurance Open Tuesday, with Vera Zvonareva - seeded No.3 and playing her first match since her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon - among the winners.

Zvonareva, who shot back into the Top 10 after the magical run at the All-England Club, where she was runner-up to Serena Williams, suffered a mid-match lapse, losing five of six games in one stretch, but eventually closed out feisty Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in three sets, 60 36 64.

"It was a tough one. I started really well, but she's a great fighter and started playing more aggressively," Zvonareva said. "I was up and down a little bit and she was able to relax and come back. That third set was a great fight."

No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No.5 seed Flavia Pennetta won in straight sets, although they were close. Radwanska edged qualifier Chanelle Scheepers in the first set and rolled through the second for a 75 63 win; Pennetta rallied from 5-2 down in the second set - saving four set points along the way - to beat talented Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko, 62 75.

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Earlier in the day, No.7 seed Shahar Peer kept her perfect record against Ana Ivanovic intact, beating the former No.1 for the third time in as many meetings. Ivanovic seemed to be on top as she built a 3-0 lead in the first set tie-break but Peer reeled off seven points in a row then completed a 76(3) 63 victory.

"When I was down 3-0, I started to build the points better and became more consistent. When I had my chances, I went for them," Peer said. "I was trying to dictate today. Hardcourt is my favorite surface. I grew up on hardcourts."

"I had chances but I never made that step. My timing was also off on my returns. But she didn't make many mistakes," Ivanovic said. "It's very frustrating. I feel really good in practice, but it's just not coming together in matches."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former world No.2, pulled off the only upset of the day, ousting No.8 seed Yanina Wickmayer in a see-saw, 63 26 61.

"I felt my game, which hasn't happened in a long time," said Kuznetsova, who has fallen out of the Top 20 after a disappointing season that has seen her reach just one quarterfinal in 11 tournaments. "If I'm being a perfectionist, I would be disappointed with the second set, but I'm happy about the result."

Zheng Jie, Maria Kirilenko, Yaroslava Shvedova and Coco Vandeweghe also won first round matches in the afternoon. Vandeweghe, a qualifier, won when Gisela Dulko had to retire down 60 30 with an ankle sprain.

"It's unfortunate what happened to Gisela, but I'm happy to be here and hope to keep it going," the 18-year-old American said. "I'm playing a lot of matches and playing well. It's also nice to play at home and have that support system. I've been getting a lot of text messages, which is nice."

At night, Daniela Hantuchova pulled off an impressive comeback win over Marion Bartoli, saving three match points at 36 45 and eventually outlasting the No.6 seed, 36 76(3) 64. Hantuchova will face Zheng in the second round.


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