The second-seeded duo easily won both of its matches, defeating No. 31 Inese Jursone and Inguna Minusa of Latvia in the first round (21-12, 21-15), and taking out 18th-seeded Canadians Heather Bansley and Elizabeth Maloney in the second round (21-10, 21-14). The Americans will face Jarunee Sannok and Usa Tenpaksee of Thailand, who received a generous No. 10 seed as a host team.
Kessy and Ross are looking for their third career title in Phuket, after winning gold in 2008 and 2009. The duo struggled to a 13th-place finish at last year's event, where they lost to Bansley and Maloney in the first round and could only win two matches in the contender's bracket.
Phuket has also been kind to Americans in general, as a team from the U.S. has won the event each of the past four years. Last fall it was Kerri Walsh and Nicole Branagh, and in 2007 it was Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.
Walsh and May-Treanor opted to skip this year's Phuket stop, as did 2011 FIVB World Tour champions Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva of Brazil. That left the top seed for China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi, who also cruised to a 2-0 mark on Thursday.
The other U.S. pair in Phuket's main draw, No. 11 Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Hanson, went 1-1 on day one. They topped 22nd-seeded Mexicans Bibiana Candelas and Mayra Garcia in round one (21-17, 21-15), then fell to sixth-seeded Brazilians Vivian Cunha and Taiana Lima (17-21, 15-21). Fendrick and Hanson will face No. 21 Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin of Great Britain in the contender's bracket Friday.
Also losing in the second round were the tournament's 3, 4 and 5 seeds. Third-seeded Brazilian sisters Carolina and Maria Salgado fell to 19th-seeded Australians Louise Bawden and Becchara Palmer (11-21, 21-16, 15-17); fourth-seeded Spaniards Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez lost to No. 13 Lenka Hajeckova and Hana Klapalova of the Czech Republic (21-16, 19-21, 11-15); and fifth-seeded Italians Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti were dropped by No. 12 Katrien Gielen and Liesbeth Mouha of Belgium (19-21, 18-21).
Phuket is a women's-only event and will feature the semifinals on Saturday, followed by the medal matches on Sunday.