Kuznetsova, Dementieva reach Sydney second round
SYDNEY: Third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova toiled for over two and a half hours in sapping heat to beat Alisa Kleybanova in an all-Russian first round encounter at the Sydney International here on Sunday.
The reigning French Open champion needed three sets to put away the 29th-ranked Kleybanova, 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 7-5 on Ken Rosewall Arena after coming back from 0-3 down in the deciding set.
Kuznetsova, who will play either Dominika Cibulkova or a qualifier in the second round, said the win was important ahead of the year''s opening grand slam tournament in Melbourne, starting on January 18.
"I was down 0-3 but I pushed back when I needed most and it worked for me. I played good at the important moments in the third set," Kuznetsova said.
"Alisa started to play definitely better, she started to serve better and it was difficult for me.
"I need some matches, I am happy in some way to play a long match today," she said.
"It''s not good for me not to close out the match when I have to, but to have a long fight it''s also good because you play lots of points and you get adjusted to the court and get tested." Defending champion Elena Dementieva had an easier path into the second round with a comfortable 6-2, 7-5 win over Francesca Schiavone of Italy.
"I am very proud to be able to defend my title and I am looking forward to playing some tough matches here in preparation for the Australian Open," the Russian fifth seed said.
Dementieva will face Daniela Hantuchova in the second round after the unseeded Slovak brushed aside Virginie Razzano of France 6-3, 6-0.
Hantuchova, who is ranked 26, took just over an hour to see off Razzano and said the work of her Australian coach Darren Cahill was making her a better player.
"He is great, he gives me so much advice and so much more confidence and I feel a different player now and I am really thankful for the opportunity to work with him," she said.
"Just listening to him and what he has to say about my game and how to set out my goals has really helped me."