Madrid - Maria Sharapova survived a sticky start to move into the second round of the WTA Madrid Open on Monday with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania.
The Russian, who won the French Open on clay last year, brought a 16-match winning streak on the surface into Madrid and was strongly favoured to coast past a player who has been dogged by knee injuries.
But she struggled at times in the first set before finding her range in the second.
It had all been about adjusting to the dirt surface and the particular demands of playing in Madrid, Sharapova said.
"I feel like in the last week I've really had to adjust to the different circumstances and the environment a bit," she said.
"When I got here it was really cold and the ball and the court were really heavy.
"A few days have passed and it's like a whole 'nother tournament.
"For me, it's just been about adjusting when you play indoors for over a week and you get back here and see the sun for the first time. It's a bit of an adjustment.
"The altitude as well. So I think there are a lot of things that come into playing when you're playing here."
The stakes are high for Sharapova in Spain as she could regain the world number one spot from Serena Williams if the results go her way.
Williams won through in straight sets on Sunday and the two could face off in the championship match at the end of the week.
If Sharapova and Williams safely won through to the second round, the same could not be said of some of the other seeds.
Both Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and China's Li Na crashed out on Sunday and Monday saw the end for Australia's Samantha Stosur as she lost 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 to home hope Carla Suarez Navarro.
The 2011 US Open champion was competitive in the first set, but, once she lost that on a tie-break, her game unravelled and she was outplayed by the Spaniard, who lost the final of the WTA tournament in Portugal on Saturday to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.
Sixth seeded German Angelique Kerber came safely through with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Alize Cornet of France, while former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, seeded third, was scheduled to play later against Pavlyuchenkova.
In early action in the men's tournament, Japan's 14th seed Kei Nishikori was too good for Jurgen Melzer of Austria winning at a canter 6-3, 6-2.Results from the third day of the ATP and WTA Madrid Open on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) bt Silvia Soler (ESP) 6-1, 6-1
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS x9) 7-6 (9/7), 6-2
Christina McHale (USA) bt Peng Shuai(CHN) 7-5, 5-7, 6-1
Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) bt Alexandra Dulgheru (ROM) 7-5, 6-2
Angelique Kerber (GER x6) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-4, 6-2
Sara Errani (ITA x7) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 7-5, 2-6, 6-4
Laura Robson (GBR) bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x4) 6-3, 6-1
Robin Haase (NED) bt Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. (UKR) 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2
Jerzy Janowicz (POL) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 6-3, 6-4
Daniel Gimeno (ESP) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
Kevin Anderson (RSA) bt Jesse Levine (CAN) 6-2, 6-2
Denis Istomin (UZB) bt Xavier Malisse (BEL) 6-3, 6-2
Kei Nishikori (JPN x14) bt Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 6-3, 6-2
Milos Raonic (CAN x12) bt Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) 7-5, 7-6 (7/5)
Florian Mayer (GER) bt Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4
John Isner (USA) bt Guillermo Garca-Lpez (ESP) 7-5, 7-6 (10/8)
Nicolas Almagro (ESP x11) bt Tobias Kamke (GER) 6-4 abandon