World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, last week's Madrid titlist Serena Williams and former top-ranked star Venus Williams were among those recording second-round victories Wednesday at the $2.168 million Italian Open tennis event, a clay-court French Open tune- up.
Azarenka, who was last week's Madrid runner-up to Serena, blew past Israeli Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-2 in a brisk 55-minute nightcap on the red clay at Foro Italico. Peer failed to enjoy even one break-point chance in the predictable setback.
Up next for Azarenka will be diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova.
The ninth-seeded former No. 1 Serena had to come from behind to best former top-10 Russian Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours, 9 minutes.
The 2002 Rome champion Serena, now 15-0 on clay this year, upset Azarenka in last week's finale on the controversial blue clay in Madrid.
Up next for the powerful American will be Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues.
The wild card Venus, meanwhile, also topped a Russian opponent on Day 3, Ekaterina Makarova, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 to setup a third-round match with Samantha Stosur, who stunned Serena in last year's U.S. Open finale.
Venus was the Rome champ back in 1999 and runner-up in 1998.
Third-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska succumbed to Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, while sixth-seeded former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki gave way to the clay-court specialist Medina Garrigues 6-4, 4-0, as the Danish star retired due to upper respiratory illness.
A fifth-seeded Stosur avoided an upset by handling Italian crowd favorite Sara Errani 6-3, 7-5. Stosur was last year's Italian Open runner-up to former No. 1 Maria Sharapova.
Eighth-seeded reigning French Open champion Li Na of China got past Czech veteran Iveta Benesova 6-1, 7-5, while another Wednesday upset came when capable German Julia Goerges drubbed seventh-seeded Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-1.
In other second-round action involving seeds, No. 12 German Angelique Kerber whipped American Vania King 6-3, 6-2, No. 13 Ana Ivanovic pasted Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1, 6-2, and a No. 14 Cibulkova edged out Italian wild card Karin Knapp 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Up next for the former French Open champion Ivanovic will be her fellow former No. 1 Sharapova.
South African Chanelle Scheepers overcame New Zealand's Marina Erakovic 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, while Italian favorite Flavia Pennetta dismissed American qualifier Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3, and Romanian Sorana Cirstea leveled Swede Sofia Arvidsson 6-3, 6-1 in other second-round play.
The 2012 Rome titlist will collect $385,000.