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Caroline Wozniacki © Gallo Images

Wozniacki opens with win in Charleston

Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki opened with a strong showing at the Family Circle on Wednesday, crushing Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1, 6-1 for her sixth straight victory in Charleston, South Carolina.

Wozniacki only entered the tournament Saturday when a scheduled trip to Haiti with boyfriend Rory McIlroy was postponed. The 2011 Family Circle champion showed little rust from her last-minute decision to play. She broke Soler-Espinosa twice to win the final five games of the opening set.

Wozniacki continued to use her big serves - she took a 3-1 lead in the second set with an ace - to keep Soler-Espinosa on the defensive and wrapped up the match in 59 minutes.

"I felt like I really served well and returned well today," she said. "I'm pleased with that."

The Dane had reached the finals of the Indian Wells tournament, but was knocked out of her last event, Sony Open in Key Biscayne, in the round of 32. She acknowledged it's generally hard to transition smoothly from the faster hardcourt surfaces to the clay at the Family Circle's Billie Jean King Court.

Venus Williams, who won this tournament in 2004, opened with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 victory over 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico.

Past champion Samantha Stosur, ranked ninth in the world, opened play with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Marina Erakovic. Jelena Jankovic moved into the round of with a three-set win over French qualifier Caroline Garcia.

Williams's younger sister, Serena, began play at the Family Circle on Tuesday with a straight set victory. Serena is the tournament's defending champion who's coming off a win last week at the Sony Open over Maria Sharapova.

Wozniacki's hopeful she can flash the form she had here two years ago -she dropped only two sets in five matches in capturing the championship - and keep her Family Circle winning streak going against all opponents.

"I'm pretty pleased about the tennis today and how things turned out," she said. "I thought I had some power in my serves and I thought I put in a lot of my first serves."

Others advancing were No 6 seed Lucie Safarova, No 10 seed Julia Goerges and American qualifier Mallory Burdette, who defeated 2009 Family Circle champ Sabine Lisicki.

Burdette's prize for moving on? A matchup with Serena Williams, seeking her 12th straight match win here after winning the Family Circle crown the two times she's played.

Venus Williams fought through a second-set lull to rally past Puig in their first-ever meeting. Williams withdrew from the Sony Open with a bad back and said it was difficult to feel 100 percent less than two weeks later.

"It's hard to be all the way prepared, but at that point, it's about being mentally tough," Venus Williams said. "It's good to start off with a win."

Wozniacki was off-kilter at first, winning her serve at deuce to start the match, then netting a backhand as Soler-Espinosa won the following game. But Wozniacki found her stride and took the next seven games, a stretch when Soler-Espinosa didn't win more than two points in any game. Soler-Espinosa, of Spain, pushed a forehand into the net on match point to end things.

No matter how things end at the Family Circle, Wozniacki is off to Augusta National next week to cheer on McIlroy at the Masters. She says it's generally more nerve-racking to watch McIlroy than when she's on the court playing because she has no control of the outcome on the golf course.

"But I generally think it's worse to watch (golf) on TV because you're just sitting there and have no clue" of McIlroy's emotions or mindset, she said. "At home, it's like, 'OK, just make the putt.'"


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