Victoria Azarenka has set up a meeting with Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy after a sometimes-shaky 6-4 6-1 win over Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan.
Azarenka, herself a two-time Australian Open champion, struggled on serve at times and gave up three breaks to Gasparyan on Tuesday.
However, the Belarusian won six straight games from 3-4 in the first set to 3-0 in the second to get the victory – her first of the 2019 season.
It was a happier time on court for Azarenka than in Melbourne, where she fell in the first round to Laura Siegemund and then broke down in tears during her press conference.
Kvitova, the top seed and defending champion at the indoor tournament, had a bye into the second round.
Incredibly, this will be just the second time the two Grand Slam champions have met since 2011, back when they were two of the highest ranked players in the world and building a rivalry.
Kvitova won their 2011 Wimbledon semifinal and final at the 2011 WTA Championships in Istanbul, both in three sets.
In their most recent match, in Toronto in 2015, Azarenka won in straight sets.
Another player scoring their first win of the season was 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who overcame Kristina Mladenovic in a topsy-turvy match to set up a second-round meeting with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Saint Petersburg Ladies Trophy, R1:
Jelena Ostapenko d Kristina Mladenovic 61 06 60 in 1 hour, 22 mins. @Formula_TX
— Tennismash (@tennismash) January 30, 2019
Earlier, Julia Goerges won the final four games of the match and beat Maria Sakkari 6-2 7-5 in the first round.
The fifth-seeded German trailed 5-3 in the second set before going on her run.
Goerges will play Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva in the second round; Zvonareva on Monday beat Ekaterina Makarova.
Also, eighth-seeded Donna Vekic came back from a set down to beat Timea Bacsinszky 4-6 6-1 6-3 and set up a second-round match with lucky loser Veronika Kudermetova.
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