The 20-year-old Russian captured the title last year when the tournament was a tier III event with a weak field.
But this year, the event has been bumped up to a Tier II status and has Jelena Jankovic, Venus and Serena Williams and Patty Schnyder in the field.
With the top four seeds enjoying a bye in the first round, Hugary's Agnes Szavay was the highest seed in action on Monday and made a smooth progress to the second round.
She dispatched Indian wildcard Shikha Uberoi 6-1 6-4, while sixth seed Sybille Bammer was made to work hard before overcoming Akiko Morigami of Japan 2-6 6-3 7-5.
I started playing good but struggled a bit in the second," said Szavay, who lost in the first round in her three previous tournaments.
Szavay was broken in the fifth game of the second set but recovered quickly to seal the match.