- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - Roberta Vinci started the defense of her St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy title with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Timea Babos on Tuesday.

The sixth-seeded Italian was broken five times but still advanced to face German veteran Andrea Petkovic in the second round.

There was worse luck for the woman Vinci beat in last year’s final, Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who was beaten 6-2, 7-5 in her first-round meeting with eighth-seeded Daria Kasatkina.

Also Tuesday, Kristina Mladenovic of France beat Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens 7-6 (5), 6-4 and will next face Australian Open finalist Venus Williams.

Top-seeded Simona Halep’s second-round opponent will be Croatian Ana Konjuh, who won 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 against Monica Niculescu of Romania.

Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan also advanced, leading 6-1, 1-0 when Swedish opponent Johanna Larsson retired from the match. Putintseva will next face Annika Beck of Germany.

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