Third seed Caroline Wozniacki has overcome a sluggish start to beat Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-4 6-4 in the opening round of the Auckland Classic.
Kovinic, who made it into the top 100 last year and is at her highest ranking of 57, hinted at a possible upset early in the match on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old produced some solid serving and strong ground strokes on the way to breaking her opponent’s serve twice.
At 0-4 down, Wozniacki, the world No.17 and runner-up in Auckland 12 months ago, began to find her range and dictate points.
The Dane went on to take the next six games to claim the first set.
In the second set, Wozniacki got a break of serve to go to 5-3 and serve for the match.
Kovinic broke back, clinching the game with a deep forehand winner, but then couldn’t consolidate.
Wozniacki will meet Christina McHale in the second round after the American downed Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-2 6-4.
In the day’s first match on centre court, Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek prevailed in a marathon three-setter against Italy’s Francesca Schiavone.
Paszek won 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-3 after two hours and 50 minutes.
A semifinalist in Auckland eight years ago, the 25-year-old will next face Russian fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Former French Open champion Schiavone, a wildcard entry this week with a ranking of 114, twice fought back from a break down in the opening set to level at 6-6, before falling behind early in the tie-break.
In the second set, the 35-year-old Schiavone, herself a two-time Classic semifinalist, got the decisive break in the fifth game and was able to stay ahead.
The players produced some desperate rallies, and world No.172 Paszek brought up match point with a net cord after her opponent had played a return between the legs.