Petrova and Kirilenko win opening matches at Tournament of Champions

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Fresh from winning the WTA Doubles Championships in Istanbul, Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko returned to action on Wednesday and duly won their first matches at the Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions.

Kirilenko, the third seed, was first on court against local favourite Tsvetana Pironkova, who had come through a tight three-setter on Tuesday against Zheng Jie. The Bulgarian appeared to be suffering the ill effects of that demanding encounter early on, as Kirilenko broke three times in the opening set.

Pironkova showed more signs of life at the beginning of the second set, breaking her Russian opponent in the opening game; however, Kirilenko recovered immediately, and a further break saw her wrap up victory 6-1, 6-4.

Nadia Petrova has had something of a career renaissance late this season. She defeated both Sam Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, showing that her power game is still capable of troubling the best players in the world. In a match that featured 11 breaks of serve in 18 games, the former world number three dispatched Zheng Jie of China in just over one and a half hours.

Petrova admitted to struggling during the 6-3, 6-3 win. “I wasn’t feeling great on my serve; I didn’t really feel in control of my game, which was disappointing. But I’m happy with my returning, and I’m hoping to serve better tomorrow.”

On Thursday, Kirilenko vs Petrova will be the first match on the Arena Armeec. Having played together throughout 2012, the friends are well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which could make for an intriguing contest. Their head-to-head is evenly poised at 4-4, and the winner will be assured a place in the semi-finals in Sofia.

Following the clash of the doubles partners will be two matches from the Group Serdika. Caroline Wozniacki will be aiming to maintain her perfect record with a win against Daniela Hantuchova, while Robert Vinci will try to rebound from her loss to the Dane on Wednesday when she plays Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh.

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