Kuznetsova starts Sydney title defence with comfortable win
Svetlana Kuznetsova enjoyed a relatively straight-forward start to her defence of the Sydney International as she defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 6-4 in round one on Sunday.
The two-time grand slam winner claimed the 15th title of her career in 2016 with a straight-sets win over Monica Puig, and Begu proved no match for the Russian on this occasion.
Kuznetsova dominated the opening set and quickly raced into a 4-0 lead in the second before hanging on as Begu's rally proved too late.
The fifth seed is joined in round two by Eugenie Bouchard, who is aiming to recapture the sort of form that saw her reach the Wimbledon final in 2014, following her victory over Zhang Shuai.
Bouchard's 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 win could have been even easier had she not wasted a 5-2 lead in the opener and three set points before the tie-break.
The Canadian remains positive about her performance, though, ahead of her next clash with either Dominika Cibulkova or Laura Siegemund.
"I knew that [it's been a lean run lately]. It's always tough getting through a first round, getting through a match in the first couple of weeks of the year," Bouchard said.
"I definitely feel rusty - even on big points [there were] some shots I missed that normally I'd expect I wouldn't. Little things like that.
"But I'm really happy I was able to regain my focus in the tie-break. That was really important to kind of dominate in that tie-break and continue to do that in the second set."
Yulia Putintseva also enjoyed a winning start in Sydney but her success came as a toe injury ended Belinda Bencic's hopes at 3-2 in the second set, Putintseva having taken the first 6-4.
Russia's Daria Kasatkina was the final victor on the opening day of competition as she came from a set down to beat Timea Babos 3-6 6-4 6-2.
Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova will play no part in the tournament due to a viral illness and thigh injury respectively, Caroline Wozniacki promoted to 10th seed in Svitolina's place.
Over in Tasmania it was a bad day for the seeds at the Hobart International as two of the three in action fell at the first hurdle.
Second seed Anastasija Sevastova was beaten 6-2 1-6 6-4 by Shelby Rogers, while Misaki Doi was also unable to mount a comeback against Lizette Cabrera - the fifth seed dumped out 6-4 5-7 7-5.
Monica Niculescu had no such problems, though, as she beat former world number one Jelena Jankovic in straight sets, while Galina Voskoboeva triumphed over Pauline Parmentier 6-4 6-3.