Rome, Italy (SportsNetwork.com) - Reigning champion Serena Williams and two- time winner Maria Sharapova were a pair of second-round winners at the $2.6 million Italian International tennis event, a clay court French Open tune- up.
The world No. 1 Williams, who headed to Rome nursing a left thigh injury, waltzed past former top-10 German Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 16 minutes on a windy Wednesday at Foro Italico.
Williams beat Victoria Azarenka in last year's final for her second career title in Rome.
The 32-year-old's third-round opponent on Thursday will be fellow American Varvara Lepchenko.
The eighth-seeded former No. 1 Sharapova continued her winning ways on clay with a 6-3, 7-5 handling of Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig.
Sharapova is seeking her third title in three events, all on clay, having recently claimed championships in Stuttgart and last week in Madrid. She's a perfect 12-0 on clay this year and 48-3 on the dirt since 2012, with her only losses coming at the hands of the incomparable Williams.
The 27-year-old Sharapova was the back-to-back Rome champion in 2011 and 2012 and lost to Williams in last year's marquee finale in the "Eternal City."
Up next for the tall Russian will be fellow former Roland Garros champ Ana Ivanovic.
In other action involving top-five stars, third-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska erased Argentine lucky loser Paula Ormaechea 6-3, 6-2 and fourth- seeded Romanian Simona Halep overcame American Madison Keys 5-7, 6-0, 6-1 and then withdrew from the field, citing an abdominal injury. Halep was last week's Madrid runner-up to Sharapova. Her withdrawal sends Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro into the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, 10th-seeded Italian favorite and former French Open runner-up Sara Errani rolled past Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-3; the 11th-seeded former world No. 1 Ivanovic, of Serbia, defeated France's Alize Cornet, the 2008 Rome runner-up, 7-6 (7-1), 7-5; a 13th-seeded Suarez Navarro knocked out former world No. 1 Venus Williams 6-4, 6-2; and the aforementioned Lepchenko upset 16th-seeded fellow American Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-2 on Day 3.
Also on Wednesday, American qualifier Christina McHale overcame Italian wild card Camila Giorgi 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, long-time Italian favorite and former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone came back to best Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) and former U.S. Open champion, former French Open finalist and 2011 Rome runner-up Samantha Stosur, of Australia, whipped Russian Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-3.