The Russian defeated the Romanian 6-3, 6-1 in the first match of the day on the clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris.
Watched by former Wimbledon champions Amelie Mauresmo and Conchita Martinez on the main Court Philippe Chatrier, Kuznetsova dropped the first three games before settling in against her 34th-ranked opponent.
The sixth-seeded Kuznetsova last year beat fellow Russian Dinara Safina in the final for her second major. Kuznetsova, one of six Grand Slam champions in the women’s draw, entered this year’s French Open following a difficult clay-court season, during which she lost her opening rounds in Rome and Madrid. It was her second win over the Romanian, who had made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris last year.
“Definitely I was a little bit nervous in the start, and it was rough start for me,” Kuznetsova told a news conference. “I managed to come back and fight for every single game. Doesn’t matter if I was down love-40 or 15-40, whatever was it. I was just playing as many balls back as I could.”
Victoria Azarenka was the highest-seeded women’s player to lose on the opening day. The No. 10 seed from Belarus was defeated 6-1, 6-2 by Argentina’s Gisela Dulko. Aravane Rezai, the No. 15 seed from France, and Italy’s No. 14 seed Flavia Pennetta advanced.
In the men’s event, Robin Soderling of Sweden, who handed four-time champion Rafael Nadal his first-ever loss at Roland Garros in the fourth round last year, eased past French wild card Laurent Recouderc 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. Soderling last year lost in the final to Roger Federer.
No. 10 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia beat Ricardo Mello of Brazil 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, and No. 32 seed Guillermo Garcia- Lopez of Spain defeated Germany’s Rainer Schuettler 7-5, 6-4, 6- 2. No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia also advanced to the second round.
Federer and women’s top seed Serena Williams will play their first-round matches tomorrow.