Madrid - Novak Djokovic overcame a testing debut on the blue clay at the Madrid Open to reach the third round on Tuesday, while top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova beat Czech opponents to advance in the women's event.
Djokovic's first match on the Magic Box's unorthodox surface was far from memorable as the top-ranked Serb laboured to a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
The defending champion was cruising until the second set when his 137th-ranked Spanish opponent broke for 2-1. Djokovic then made four straight unforced errors in his next service game - including two double faults - to go down 4-1.
Djokovic complained about the surface throughout, but managed to get his emotions in check and his game together to take a decisive 4-2 lead in the third set before sealing his 25th match win of the season.
Djokovic, who like Rafael Nadal has been critical of the new-look clay top, hit 20 winners to 24 unforced errors.
The women's top two overcame dips in concentration to put away mistake-prone opponents. Azarenka held off Andrea Hlavackova's challenge to win 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) after Sharapova beat Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-3.
Azarenka has already won four titles this year, including the Australian Open, but showed less convincing form on the blue surface.
"I felt like a lost a little bit of my concentration," Azaranka said. "I didn't adjust well to some of the obstacles that happened but I'm glad that I could turn it around pretty quickly and finish the match in my favour."
The Belarusian took the opening set without too many worries before stumbling toward the end of the second set as she double-faulted to be broken for Hlavackova to tie it up 5-5.
Azarenka saved set point with a forehand smash and took it to the tie-breaker, where she took a 5-1 lead before clinching it when Hlavackova - who had needed treatment on her left thigh late in the second set - hit long.
Azarenka plays Ana Ivanovic in the third round after the Serbian beat Nadia Petrova 7-5, 6-1 in an earlier match on Tuesday.
"Sometimes you have these roller-coasters and she is one those players that doesn't allow you a rhythm," Azarenka said, who is playing her second clay court event this season after losing to Sharapova in the Stuttgart final. "I'm glad I could stay in control and finish the match. There is more room to improve."
Sharapova was more convincing in her second-round match, as Zakopalova's erratic serve opened her up to Sharapova's solid groundstrokes. Sharapova earned the first of five breaks in the opening game and was in command after another break gave her a 4-1 lead.
Zakopalova came forward to break back in the next game but could get no closer as the pair held serve before Sharapova clinched the set with one of four aces.
Zakopalova was overpowered again on her opening serve but saved a match point and broke back to get to 5-3 before her seventh double-fault clinched it for Sharapova.
In men's play, Jurgen Melzer rallied to beat Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, the first seeded player to exit.
However, seeded players Tomas Berdych, Gilles Simon, Juan Martin del Potro, Gael Monfils and Fernando Verdasco all advanced.
Berdych beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
Hard-hitting Canadian player Milos Raonic beat Argentina's David Nalbandian 6-4, 6-4 to set up a date with Roger Federer on Wednesday, when Nadal debuts on the blue clay against Nikolay Davydenko.
Results on Tuesday from the Madrid Open at La Caja Magica (seedings in parentheses):Men
Marin Cilic, Croatia, def. Albert Montanes, Spain, 6-3, 6-3.
Federico Delbonis, Argentina, def. Albert Ramos, Spain, 6-3, 6-2.
Jurgen Melzer, Austria, def. Feliciano Lopez (13), Spain, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland, def. Olivier Rochus, Belgium, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
Gilles Simon (9), France, def. Fabio Fognini, Italy, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-3.
Milos Raonic, Canada, def. David Nalbandian, Argentina, 6-4, 6-4.
Marcel Granollers, Spain, def. Carlos Berlocq, Argentina, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.
Radek Stepanek, Czech Republic, def. Bernard Tomic, Australia, 6-2, 7-5.
Alexandr Dolgopolov (16), Russia, def. Pablo Andujar, Spain, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
Andreas Seppi, Italy, def. Michael Llodra, France, 7-5, 6-4.
Gael Monfils (12), France, def. Philipp Kohlschreiber, Germany, 7-5, 6-7 (2/7), 6-3.
Fernando Verdasco (15), Spain, def. Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan, 7-5, 6-2.
Juan Martin del Potro (10), Argentina, def. Florian Mayer, Germany, 6-4, 6-2.
Richard Gasquet (14), France, def. Tomas Bellucci, Brazil, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).
Tomas Berdych (6), Czech Republic, def. Kevin Anderson, South Africa, 6-4, 6-3.
Novak Djokovic (1), Serbia, def. Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Spain, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
Maria Sharapova (2), Russia, def. Klara Zakopalova, Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-3.
Victoria Azarenka (1), Belarus, def. Andrea Hlavackova, Czech Republic, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2).
Ana Ivanovic (13), Serbia, def. Nadia Petrova, Russia, 7-5, 6-1.
Lucie Safarova, Czech Republic, def. Carla Suarez Navarro, Spain, 6-3, 6-4.
Varvara Lepchenko, United States, def. Shahar Peer, Israel, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
Serena Williams (9), United States, def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia, 6-2, 6-1.
Caroline Wozniacki (6), Denmark, def. Mona Barthel, Germany, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).