Top-seeded Vera Zvonareva breezed through the opening round of the inaugural Baku Cup on Tuesday, while second-seeded fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had to battle through heat exhaustion and 25 double faults before advancing.
Zvonareva was only briefly tested, saving a set point to recover from 3-5 in the second set before beating Nigina Abduraimova of Ukraine 6-1, 7-5. Zvonareva imposed herself from the start by breaking serve in the opening game, and Abduraimova was no match for her vastly more experienced opponent.
Pavlyuchenkova, in contrast, had to work much harder for her 7-5, 6-4 win over Valeria Solovieva, needing almost 2 1/2 hours to overcome the 274th-ranked Russian. Pavlyuchenkova hit 16 double faults in the first set alone and required treatment for heat exhaustion after breaking to lead 3-1 in the final set.
Earlier, third-seeded Elena Vesnina overcame fellow Russian Yana Buchina 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 to begin another quest for her first WTA title. Vesnina has reached five finals on tour.
Buchina led 2-0 in the third set when Vesnina called a medical time-out to receive treatment to her right shoulder. When play resumed, Vesnina immediately broke back. She missed two match points on Buchina's serve at 5-4, and closed out the match on her third match point with a blistering service return.
Vesnina will next play former top-15 player Aravane Rezai, who has struggled with off-court problems and seen her ranking slump to 112th. The Frenchwoman easily overcame 15-year-old Kamilla Farhad of Azerbaijan 6-0, 6-2.
Fifth-seeded Monica Niculescu of Romania advanced when Eirini Georgatou retired with a left ankle injury when trailing 5-1. The Greek was later taken to a hospital for examination.
Georgia's Anna Tatishvili upset eighth-seeded Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-4, 6-2, seventh-seeded Russian Ksenia Pervak battled for 2 hours, 19 minutes to overcome Thailand's Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, and Elena Bovina of Russia needed six match points and 2 hours, 38 minutes to defeat Kazakh Zarina Diyas 6-0, 3-6, 7-5.