Madrid - Holder Petra Kvitova blunted a late attack from France's Kristina Mladenovic to advance 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) into the third round of the Madrid Open on Monday.
The Czech second seed, chasing a fourth title on the Caja Magica clay, has now won her last five matches over qualifier Mladenovic in straight sets.
"It was a pretty difficult match. I fought hard in the end and that's what counts," the winner said,
"The clay conditions here are a bit different compared to other venues, so I needed time to fight it out."
Kvitova took the opening set on a break and started the second set with another,
But Mladenovic broke back for 3-all and eventually forced the contest to a tiebreaker, which Kvitova captured.
"I had to fight, but I'm glad that I had this (kind of) match. Hopefully, it's given me a bit more freedom for the next round," last month's Stuttgart clay winner said.
Sloane Stephens beat former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to equal her best showing at the event, defeating the two-time Australian Open winner for the fourth consecutive time.
Belarusian Azarenka committed nine double-faults in going down to the American eighth seed.
"I was taking control from the baseline points, I was doing the right things," Azarenka said.
"I was playing smart tennis. But I didn't create anything with my serve today and it was really frustrating.
"I didn't really have a game plan, that's something I need to take a look at and fix.
"I need to make it more simple and just do the right things."
Former US Open winner Stephens also reached the third round here in 2014 and 2018.
Dutch seventh seed Kiki Bertens advanced past 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 6-3.
Last year's losing Madrid finalist Bertens hammered 11 aces as she went through in 80 minutes, breaking Ostapenko four times.
In the men's first round at the ATP-WTA pre-Roland Garros tune-up, Russian 11th seed Karen Khachanov ended a five-match losing streak as he put out Spain's Jaume Munar 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.
Khachanov earned his last win in mid-March at Indian Wells.
An indifferent season continued for 2017 ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, with the Bulgarian falling to Taylor Fritz 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/4).
Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), while Frances Tiafoe beat Georgia's Nikolaz Basilashvili 6-7 (8/10), 6-3, 6-4.
Results from the ATP and WTA tournaments in Madrid on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Laslo Djere (SRB) bt Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-4
Reilly Opelka (USA) bt Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4
Karen Khachanov (RUS x11) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x14) 6-7 (8/10), 6-3, 6-4
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5)
Taylor Fritz (USA) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/4)
Marin Cilic (CRO x9) bt Martin Klizan (SVK) 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/0)
Gael Monfils (FRA x15) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-3, 6-1
Richard Gasquet (FRA) bt Alejandro Davidovich (ESP) 7-5, 7-6 (7/5)
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) bt Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Sloane Stephens (USA x8) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 6-4, 2-6, 6-2
Kiki Bertens (NED x7) bt Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-4, 6-3
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x12) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-3, 6-4
Petra Kvitova (CZE) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x9) bt Danielle Collins (USA) 6-1, 1-6, 6-1
Viktória Kužmová (SVK) bt Carla Suárez (ESP) 6-4, 7-6 (7/2)
Belinda Bencic (SUI) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-3