Maria Kirilenko sent Svetlana Kuznetsova (who hit 10 aces) out of Rome competition today with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win over the 5th seed. Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open champion, has not had a champion's year so far. She did make it to the quarterfinals of Miami, where she was the number 1 seed, but was upset by 13th seed Marion Bartoli. Kuznetsova reached the second round in Sydney, the fourth round at the Australian Open, the third round in Dubai (where she lost to a qualifier), and the second round in Indian Well (she had a bye in the first round). As defending champion in Stuttgart, she lost in the second round.
Four qualifiers, a wild card and a lucky loser (Pauline Parmentier, who became the lucky loser when 10th seed Sam Stosur withdrew from the tournament) went out in first round play today, and a couple of clay court experts took out a couple of big hitters. Italian veteran Roberta Vinci defeated Alisa Kleybanova 7-6, 7-6, and 13th seed Francesca Schiavone defeated Daniela Hantuchova.
There were also clay court experts who did not survive. In the "What do I know?" department, Sara Errani--whom I chose to be a dangerous floater in the tournament--lost to Alexandra Dulgheru. That is a bit of an interesting story: When Dulgheru, a qualifier, surprised everyone and won in Warsaw last year--in the first tour tournament she had ever entered--she defeated Errani in the second round.
The other clay specialist who did not survive today was Gisela Dulko, who did a lot of hard work in the third set, only to lose the match in a tiebreak. Dulko played fellow clay afficionado Patty Schnyder, who was up 5-0 in the third set, but, characteristically, had problems closing the match. Dulko broke her twice and held her own serve, also. Schnyder had a break point when Dulko served at 3-5, but could not convert it. Dulko then broke her again, and then again. Schnyder saved three match points at 5-6, then won the tiebreak 7-5. (Thrill Ride makes her 2010 Rome debut soon, and she will have to be really creative to top that.) The final score was 6-7, 6-2, 7-6.
11th seed Yanina Wickmayer barely survived. She defeated qualifier Karolina Sprem 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. Lucie Safarova hit 14 aces in her 6-2, 6-7 (9), 6-3 defeat of Olga Govortsova, and Ana Ivanovic, in her straight set win over Elena Vesnina, posted outstanding service win percentages of 81 and 69.
In the all-USA match, recent Fed Cup star Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Melanie Oudin 6-1, 6-3. For her effort, she will play 7th seed Jelena Jankovic. Mattek-Sands is now 3-0 against Oudin in tour play.
In doubles, the all-Russian team of Maria Kirilenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 7-5.