Reigning two-time champion Maria Sharapova resumed her winning ways in Rome with an easy second-round victory, while her fellow former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka also landed in the win column Wednesday at the $2.37 million Italian Open, a clay-court French Open tune-up.
The second-seeded Sharapova drilled Spanish qualifier Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-2, while a third-seeded Azarenka pasted German Julia Gorges 6-2, 6-0 on the red clay at Foro Italico. Sharapova was last week's Madrid runner-up to the great Serena Williams.
The French Open champion Sharapova captured a second straight Italian Open title last year by beating Chinese star and former French Open titlist Li Na in the final.
Up next for the Russian bomber will be American slugger Sloane Stephens, while the Australian Open champion Azarenka will take on Japan's Ayumi Morita.
A fifth-seeded Li also reached the third round on Wednesday by blasting fellow Chinese Zheng Jie 6-3, 6-1. The Australian Open runner-up will battle former world No. 1, two-time Rome champion and former runner-up Jelena Jankovic on Thursday. Jankovic whipped Serb Bojana Jovanovski 6-2, 6-0 on Day 3.
Meanwhile, seventh-seeded Italian crowd favorite Sara Errani, last year's Roland Garros runner-up to Sharapova, defeated American Christina McHale 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 and ninth-seeded former French Open and Rome runner-up Samantha Stosur doused China's Peng Shuai 7-6 (7-5), 6-0.
In other second-round action involving seeds, No. 12 Russian Maria Kirilenko mauled American Varvara Lepchenko, 6-3, 6-1; No. 13 Italian Roberta Vinci handled wild card and fellow countrywoman Nastassja Burnett 6-1, 6-4; No. 14 Slovak Dominika Cibulkova overcame American qualifier Melanie Oudin 5-7, 6-1, 6-3; and a No. 16 Stephens fought back to beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Cibulkova is rewarded with a third-round match against the reigning world No. 1 Serena.
Additionally, the aforementioned Morita dismissed Pole Urszula Radwanska 6-3, 6-1, Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro leveled Swiss Romina Oprandi 6-4, 6-2, and Spanish lucky-loser Lourdes Dominguez Lino topped Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 6-4. Dominguez Lino replaced sixth-seeded German Angelique Kerber in the draw, as Kerber pulled out with an abdominal injury.