Fightbacks from current and former Grand Slam champions marked the start of WTA play at the Rome Masters, with Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova recovering to move into the second round.

Reigning Roland Garros winner Swiatek from Poland came from 4-1 down, advancing after just nine games as opponent Alison Riske was forced to retire injured trailing 5-4 with an existing left foot problem.

Swiatek earned her first victory here after losing in her 2020 debut match when the event was played last autumn due to a COVID delay.

Double Wimbledon trophyholder Kvitova needed more of a battle, losing her opening set against another Pole in Magda Linette before posting a 1-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory.

It took the Czech 98 miutes and five breaks of serve to secure victory.

“The first set I started very badly. I was missing almost everything,” Kvitova, who made 16 unforced errors in the opening set, said. “The ball was bouncing everywhere as well (due to wind).

Kvitova seized control during a winning run of nine games to eventually complete her turnaround.

The match was played on the empty Court Centrale at an event banned to spectators.

WIth 1,500 per day allowed last week in Madrid, Kvitova said the difference in ambience was notable.

“I’m really missing those spectators, especially here, They can be crowded and very supporting.

“But suddenly it’s so quiet and so sad. I need those emotions a bit from the crowd.”

US teen Coco Gauff needed heroics to dismiss Putintseva 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in a struggle lastingfor almost three hours on the Petrangelli court surrounded by massive marble statues of helmeted naked warrios installed during the Mussolini era 90 yeas ago.

Gauff kept her eye on the match, coming from a break down in the opening set and saving six set points in the second despite losing it.

Victory came on third match point in the deciding set.

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