Vera Zvonareva lost to China's Peng Shuai in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday — and found a reason to be optimistic.
"It was a tough match," Zvonareva said after the 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 loss that dropped the Russian to 1-3 this season. "I took a little risk in the last game because I had to and unfortunately it didn't work out for me. I made a couple of mistakes and I think that helped her to break me in the last game. I think my game is better than it was in Australia, so I can't complain too much."
In Australia, where she lost to Casey Dellacqua in the opening round of the Australian Open, Zvonareva was playing her first match since the London Olympics in August 2012. The 2009 Indian Wells champion sat out all of last year and had surgery to correct right shoulder problems that bothered her throughout 2012, when her ranking dropped from No. 7 to No. 98.
Zvonareva, who will be 30 on Sept. 7, has college degrees in physical education and international economic relations, and she said there were times when she wondered if it might not be time to put tennis aside and pursue other interests. But she loves playing too much to quit as long as she feels she can return to the level that had produced 12 singles and six doubles titles and made her No. 2 in the world in 2010.
"I have to keep working," said Zvonareva, who also is playing doubles in the tournament. "Any matches that I can get is great for me, either in singles or doubles or whatever. Playing out there against the top players in the world is how you're going to get your game back. You can practice as much as you want, but playing is different. I just need to get matches."
Canadian qualifier Sharon Fichman of Toronto lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Israel's Shahar Peer.
In other early matches on opening day of the 12-day, $10.5 million event, Shelby Rogers was a 6-0, 6-4 winner over the Czech Republic's Petra Cetkovska; Lauren Davis beat Taiwan's Yung-Jan Chan 6-4, 6-3; Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski topped Alison Riske 3-6, 6-3, 6-3; Germany's Annika Beck beat Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele 6-2, 2-6, 7-5; Austria's Yvonne Meusburger ousted the Czech Republic's Iveta Melzer 6-4, 6-2; and Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer beat Slovakia's Anna Schmiedlova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Silvia Soler-Espinoza of Spain also moved into the second round when wild-card entry Nadia Petrova of Russia retired due to a lower right leg injury at 1-1 in the opening set.
Later, Madison Keys beat Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-1; Britain's Heather Watson was a 7-5, 6-4 winner over Switzerland's Belinda Bencic; Japan's Kurumi Nara topped qualifier Allie Kiick 6-4, 6-0; France's Kristina Mladenovic beat China's Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-1; and Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova outlasted South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.