Nicole Vaidisova earned a welcome 6-4, 6-2 victory over Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik on Monday to reach the second round of the Zurich Open.
The Czech enjoyed a highly successful first-half of the season, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open as well as the quarter-finals of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. But she was then struck down by a virus, and has since played only the US Open and in Moscow.
"I missed four tournaments after Wimbledon, and then I pulled my hamstring after the US Open," Vaidisova said. "It's disappointing because I played well and had a good ranking and a big chance to reach the Championships. I was really looking forward to it."
"Then in the second half I almost didn't play at all. But these are things I can't do anything about, and now I'm just trying to enjoy the fact I'm on the court healthy," she said.
It was a good win over Srebotnik, who has excelled in Zurich in the last two years with victories over Amelie Mauresmo and Elena Dementieva as she reached the 2005 quarter-finals and last year's semis.
A vital difference between them was the serve, as Vaidisova claimed victory with her 11th ace and Srebotnik was plagued with six double-faults.
"The serve was definitely the key, and I thought I returned pretty well," Vaidisova said. "She has a big serve too but after a couple of games I was able to step it up and hit some good shots from that."
Tatiana Golovin of France came through a tough battle with Russia's Maria Kirilenko, winning 6-3, 6-4.
Kirilenko's aggressive style of play allowed her to keep in contention, and helped her earn the first break of the match to lead 2-1. But Golovin responded by winning the next eight points, and then took a 4-2 lead with her fifth break point of the game.
In the second set Golovin three times failed to hold a break of serve, but from 3-4 down she she claimed the final three games for the loss of just two points.
"I was trying to find a rhythm and the right timing so I could actually control," Golovin said. "But first rounds are always tough and she's been playing well so it was definitely not an easy match for me."
India's Sania Mirza was competitive against Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands for the first three games, but then lost nine-straight games as Krajicek's stronger serve and greater consistency in the rallies earned her a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
In the only other match played on the opening day, Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine recovered from a dreadful first set to defeat Swiss wild card Timea Bacsinszky 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The US$1,34 million event features seven of the top 10-ranked players, with Justine Henin of Belgium, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic all having byes into the second round.
Those four players have already qualified for the season-ending Championships in Madrid, and they were joined on Monday by Zurich sixth seed Serena Williams.
Six other players are still in contention for the remaining three places.
They are Anna Chakvetadze, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchova, Elena Dementieva and Marion Bartoli.
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