"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."
In other action on the first day of the 12-day, $10.5 million event, 38th-ranked Madison Keys led four Americans into the second round.
Also advancing were Shelby Rogers, with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic; Lauren Davis, who beat Taiwan's Yung-Jan Chan, 6-4, 6-3; and Varvara Lepchenko, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.
New Jersey resident Christina McHale lost 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Australian qualifier Dellacqua in the final match of the session. Alison Riske and qualifier Allie Kiick also lost, Riske bowing to three-time tour winner Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, and Kiick losing 6-4, 6-0 to Kurumi Nara of Japan.
The women's first round will continue and the men will begin play Thursday.