Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska were among the big name winners at the Madrid Masters on Monday as the tennis world paid their respects to the shocking death of Elena Baltacha.
The former British No 1 died at the age of 30 on Sunday after a short battle against liver cancer.
A minute’s silence in honour of Baltacha ahead of the evening session at the Caja Magica was attended by 50 players from the ATP and WTA circuits, including Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
Earlier, Australian Open champion Li avoided a repeat of her shock first round exit at the Madrid Masters last year with a 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) win over Belgian Kirsten Flipkens on Monday.
The world No 2 raced through the opening set, but was forced to save two set points in the second before closing out the match in a tie-break.
“I knew it would never be an easy match and even when I won the first set, she was really fighting a lot in the second,” said the Chinese star.
Next up for Li is a meeting with compatriot Zheng Jie in round two.
“We are from the same country, we know each other well so I’m sure it will be tough,” she added.
Third-seeded Radwanska also sealed her place in the last 32 with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 win over Australian Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard.
The Canadian put up a strong fight in a tightly contested opening set, but Radwanska’s variety of shot-making allowed her to comfortably take the tie-break.
“Of course I think the tiebreak was the biggest key in that match,” admitted Radwanska.
“I made a couple good shots in the tiebreak and managed to win that. I think that gave me more confidence in the second set and it was a little bit easier.”
The Pole took complete control in the second with an early double break and served the match out to set up a second round clash with Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova.
World No 5 Simona Halep was in fine form as she thrashed Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-0.
And there were also straight sets wins Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic over Ekaterina Makarova and Elina Svitolina respectively.
Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia became the only top 10 seed to fall on Monday, though, as she was comprehensively beaten 6-4, 6-0 by 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia.
It was smooth sailing for the seeds on the men’s side as Kei Nishikori, John Isner and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all secured their passage into round two.
Japan’s Nishikori kept his recent fine form going after winning the Barcelona Open last week with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Croatian Ivan Dodig to set up a meeting with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round.
“I’m playing well and did well last week in Barcelona and I’m getting better on clay so hopefully I can go further this week.”
Former French Open champion Michael Chang has recently joined Nishikori’s coaching team and the world No 12 said is already reaping the benefits of teaming up with the American.
“Last week he was there in Barcelona and we worked on a lot of clay-court tennis, obviously he won the French Open when he was 17 so he knows how to play on clay and it’s a big help for me.”
Ninth seed Isner was characteristically solid on serve as the American wasn’t broken in his 7-6, (10/8), 6-4 win over Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Tsonga faced a stiffer test against fellow Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin, but also came through in three sets 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
World No 14 Grigor Dimitrov, seeded 12th, also fared well in a 6-2, 6-4 win over Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta. Australian Marinko Matosevic defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fernando Verdasco topped Andreas Seppi in straight sets, as well.
No 15 seed Mikhail Youzhny earned a straight-sets victory over Benjamin Becker while other first-round victors included Marius Copil, Jarkko Nieminen, Dominic Thiem, Albert Ramos and Feliciano Lopez. Former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt was dismissed by Colombian Santiago Giraldo 5-7, 6-4, 2-6.
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