Dubai - Grand slam winners Samantha Stosur and Petra Kvitova strolled into the second round of the Dubai championships with straight-sets wins on Tuesday after Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka withdrew due to a foot injury.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki also went through as the leading players made short work of lower-ranked opponents on a subdued centre court.
Seven of the top 10 remain in contention but Belarussian Azarenka decided to rest her injured right foot.
“I have been playing a lot of tennis over the last five days, so going to a new tournament is too much to handle right now - it keeps getting worse,” said the world number two.
Australian seventh seed Stosur beat Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-1 after suffering one wobble on the way when she lost her serve to fall 3-2 behind in the first set after slugging an easy cross-court smash wide.
However, that shocked the 2011 US champion into action and Stosur then won 10 out of 11 games as her opponent wilted.
Makarova, 24, scuffed a backhand into the net to lose the first set, while the second was a formality for Stosur.
“The first couple of games were good - I was getting ahead in the games but not winning them - and then I got down that break and that kicked me into gear,” Stosur told reporters.
“It wasn't like anything outstanding, but I played tight games and didn't really give her too much.”
Czech Petra Kvitova put an indifferent start to 2013 behind her as she thumped Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-1.
Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011, but suffered a second-round exit at January's Australian Open.
“At the beginning of the season I wish (I had) better results,” Kvitova told reporters. “I changed my fitness preparation, so I needed some time to get used to it.”
Eighth seed Wozniacki was similarly dominant in beating Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-2 although the Dane lost her serve at 5-1 in the first set before breaking back immediately.
Safarova double-faulted to gift the world number 10 a 3-1 lead in the second set and the Czech capped a miserable display with a shanked forehand to cede the match to Wozniacki.
“I'm really enjoying the tennis and am happy to be out there - at one point it was just a job but I feel like I've got that hunger back and that enjoyment of the game,” said Wozniacki.
The Dane ended 2010 and 2011 as the top-ranked women's player, but endured a tough 2012, slipping down the standings as she made little impression at the grand slams.
This year has also proved difficult for the 22-year-old, who has gone beyond the last 16 in only one tournament, and she will now face Chinese qualifier Jie Zheng before a potential showdown with new world number one Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.
Williams, who got a bye into the second round, will play France's Marion Bartoli on Wednesday and the American's chances of lifting a 48th singles tour title were boosted by the absence of Azarenka, who also pulled out of last year's Dubai event.
The Belarussian has been in fine form this season with a near-perfect record, winning 12 matches in a row since withdrawing from the Brisbane International semi-final against Williams in January due to “a bad pedicure experience”.
That run includes winning her second Australian Open title, plus Sunday's Qatar Open final in which she beat Williams. - Reuters