Leading Russian women advance in Sydney

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and her fellow Russian Elena Dementieva won their opening round matches at the Sydney International Sunday, one of the major lead-up events to the Australian Open.

Kuznetsova was given a tough workout from compatriot Alisa Kleybanova before winning 6-2 6-7 7-5, while defending champion Dementieva had a much easier time in defeating Italy's Francesca Schiavone 6-2 7-5.

Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova also had a quick workout, beating Virginie Razzano of France 6-3 6-0 in less than an hour to advance to a second round clash with Dementieva at Sydney's Olympic tennis center.

Kuznetsova spent almost two-and-a-half hours under the baking Australian sun and recovered from 3-0 down in the deciding set to kickstart her Australian campaign with a win.

"I pushed back when I needed most and it worked for me. I played good at the important moments in the third set," she said.

"I need some matches, I am happy in some way to play a long match today.

"It's not good for me not to close (out the match) when I have too but to have a long fight it's also good because you play lots of points and you get adjusted to the court and get tested."

Only three regular tournament matches were played Sunday as organizers completed the last stage of qualifying but the co-sanctioned ATP-WTA event swings into full action Monday.

Women's world number one Serena Williams has a first-round bye and was scheduled to meet Justine Henin in the second round before the Belgian pulled out with a leg injury sustained during her loss to Kim Clijsters in Saturday's Brisbane final.

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by John O'Brien)