Reigning champion Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon titlist Petra Kvitova and former world No. 1 Venus Williams were a trio of winners Tuesday at the $2.168 million Italian Open tennis event, a clay-court French Open tune-up.
The second-seeded former world No. 1 Sharapova handled rising American teenager Christina McHale 7-5, 7-5, while a fourth-seeded Kvitova overcame eight double faults to get past capable Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4 in second-round action on a sun-filled day at Foro Italico.
Sharapova titled on red clay in Stuttgart last month.
The Aussie Open and Wimbledon runner-up Sharapova beat U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur in last year's Rome finale.
Meanwhile, the wild card Williams waltzed past quality Romanian Simona Halep 6-3, 6-4 in opening-round play. Williams was the Rome champion in 1999 and runner-up in 1998.
Up next for the seven-time Grand Slam champion will be Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
In first-round action involving seeds on Day 2, New Zealand's Marina Erakovic erased No. 11 German Sabine Lisicki 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3; No. 14 Slovak Dominika Cibulkova whipped Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic 6-1, 6-2; Romanian Sorana Cirstea knocked out No. 15 Serb Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4); and Italian Flavia Pennetta dismissed No. 16 Russian Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 7-6 (7-2). The former world No. 1 Jankovic was the back-to-back Rome titlist in 2007 and 2008 and runner-up in 2010.
Additional opening-round wins came for Russian Nadia Petrova, Italian favorites Sara Errani and wild card Karin Knapp, Czech Petra Cetkovska, Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa, and American Sloane Stephens, who outlasted fellow qualifier and former top-10 Russian Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
The 2012 Rome titlist will collect $385,000.