HOBART, Australia, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Former Australian Open champion Mary Pierce returned to form Tuesday, crushing American Kristine Brandi 6-0, 6-3 in the first round of the $110,000 ANZ Tasmanian International tennis event.
Defending champion Rita Grande of Italy, the top
seed, posted a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Rita Kuti Kis of Hungary.
The matches were supposed to be played Monday, but persistent rain canceled all first-round action.
Pierce received a wild card into this event as she attempts a comeback after missing seven months last season with back problems.
Last week she had a setback when she strained a hamstring at an exhibition in Hong Kong She is hoping this Australian Open tuneup will get her ready for the first Grand Slam event of the year.
The Australian Open, which Pierce won in 1995 for the first of her two Grand Slam titles, begins Monday.
Grande, 26, is defending one of her two career titles -- both claimed last season. She defeated Jennifer Hopkins for last year's Tasmanian title and won the Slovak Indoor hardcourt event in October.
Hopkins also made it to the second round, crushing Bianka Lamade of Germany, 6-1, 6-1. Hopkins, one of three Americans to advance Tuesday, next will face eighth seed Nicole Pratt of
Americans Meilen Tu and Amy Frazier also moved on to the second round. Tu, the fifth seed, defeated Cara Black of Zimbabwe, 6-4, 6-3, while the seventh-seeded Frazier upended Celine Beigbeder of France, 6-3, 6-2.
Two of the other four seeds in action Tuesday advanced as No. 2 Paola Suarez of Argentina bounced Elena Tatarkova of the Ukraine, 6-3, 6-3, and Pratt eliminated Virginie Razzano of France, 6-2, 6-3.
German qualifier Martina Muller surprised sixth seed Joannette Kruger of South Africa, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), and Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain cruised past ninth seed Mariana Diaz-Oliva of Argentina, 6-2, 6-2.
Also Tuesday, Stephanie Foretz of France held off Slovakia's Lenka Dlhopolcova, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), and Austrian Barbara Schwartz outlasted Christina Wheeler of Australia, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.