MOSCOW - Top seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia advanced to the second round of the $2.4-million ATP and WTA Kremlin Cup here on Tuesday, beating Frenchman Florent Serra in straight sets.
Davydenko, fifth in the ATP rankings, came through 6-1, 7-5 in one hour 18 minutes to record his second win over Serra in their third head-to-head meeting.
Davydenko, 27, broke early for a 3-0 lead. He increased his advantage with another break in the sixth game to lift himself one set up in 32 minutes.
Russia's Nikolay Davydenko returns a shot to France's Florent Serra at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Tuesday. AP
No big serves were produced in the second set before the 11th game as Serra attempted to pull level.
But Davydenko managed to make the deciding break and go on to win the set and the match, sealing victory with a backhand cross.
"The courts here are relatively slow and I think Florent (Serra) experienced certain problems in the opening set," Davydenko said.
"But in the second he adapted to the surface and was serving pretty well. It was not easy at all to win today."
"I would like to defend my title here but, as usual, I'm my own worst enemy," he added. "I should do my best to keep myself in top form and concentration throughout the entire tournament to do it."
Another Frenchman Michael Llodra, the sixth seed, crashed out to Uzbeki qualifier Denis Istomin, who was playing just his second career ATP match, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 in one hour 25 minutes.
In the WTA section Flavia Penetta of Italy upset former world No 1 Venus Williams, seventh seed, with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win for a place in the second round.
The rivals traded breaks halfway into the opening set before Penetta, 18th in the world, broke in the ninth for a one-set advantage in 47 minutes.
But in the second Williams picked up steam and broke twice to level at one set all after one hour 21 minute on court.
Penetta, 26, started the deciding set with an immediate break and kept her narrow lead through to record her third win over Williams in four meetings.
Russia's fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, saw off Li Na of China winning 6-4, 7-5 in one hour 52 minutes to clinch her fifth win over the 26-year-old Chinese in their seventh meeting.
Kuznetsova, currently seventh in the WTA rankings, broke three times in the opening set for a 1-0 lead in 35 minutes, while Li managed to reply only on two occasions.
The more accurate Kuznetsova won the second set and the match on her fourth matchpoint.
"It was a very tough first-round match," Kuznetsova said.
"Li beat many serious opponents this season ... to win in two sets, I think, is not a bad start into the tournament."
Another Russian Vera Zvonareva, seeded seventh here, looked confident against compatriot Maria Kirilenko, clinching her third victory 6-4, 6-4 in one hour 47 minutes in as many head-to-head meetings.