Top seed Caroline Wozniacki and number two Vera Zvonareva took heavy opening—match defeats at the Medibank International Tuesday to leave number three Kim Clijsters in charge at the final tune—up event for the Australian Open.

Wozniacki, the word number one player from Denmark, lost her opening WTA contest of the season as 6—3, 6—3 to Slovak Dominika Cibulkova. Italian Flavia Pennetta dispatched a sluggish Wimbledon and US Open finalist Zvonareva 7—5, 7—5.

But the steady Clijsters maintained pace with a 6—1, 6—4 defeat of Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in her second—round opening match after a bye.

Svetlana Kuznetsova completed the day’s rout by beating French Open finalist Samantha Stosur, seeded fourth, 3—6, 6—3, 6—4. Seventh seed Victoria Azarenka defeated Israeli Shahar Peer 7—5, 6—3 while China’s eighth seed Li Na beat Virginie Razzano of France 6—4, 1—6, 6—4. “I’m starting my matches well, and I feel that I’m really getting into a groove from the beginning of the match,” said the 27—year—old Clijsters, who played her first official match of 2011 after winning the year—end championship in October. “It’s an important feeling to have, knowing that you can start off well and really kind of build from there.” The emotional Zvonareva was a bundle of nerves in defeat. Calm Clijsters tried to let the hysterics roll by. “You try just to focus on yourself. Of course I hear yelling and I hear the racquet being hit on the floor. I don’t pay attention that much. I hear it, but I’m focussed on the next point.” Wozniacki, still looking for a first career Grand Slam title, has had a busy pre—season, playing energy—draining exhibitions in Thailand and Hong Kong before finally venturing onto court for a serious match more than a week into 2011.

She will now likely head to Melbourne to try and quickly regain form with as top seed at the Open starting on Monday.

“At the start of the new season you always need to get into the match play. I didn’t feel that I was playing great tennis out there,” said Wozniacki, who leads the 32nd—ranked Cibulkova 5—1 in their career series.

“I just need to get some sets going and some training matches, head to Melbourne and get ready.” The seed refused to consider the strain that her active travel schedule might have had on her performance, remaining optimistic.

“Definitely it’s a bit tough to go from Hong Kong to Sydney and play really well here. That’s something I have to take into consideration,” Wozniacki said. “But I felt pretty good out there, it just wasn’t my day.

Hopefully I can practise again tomorrow and get some points going. I just need a few matches, like I said, and I’ll be fine for Melbourne.” In the men’s first round, seventh seed Guillermo Garcia—Lopez beat Australian qualifier Chris Guccione 7—6 (7—5), 7—5. Argentine Juan Chela rallied past two—time semi—finalist Radek Stepanek, 4—6, 6—0, 6—3.

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