Dinara Safina had a 6-4, 6-4 win over Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia on Monday to start what she hopes will be another run to the Australian Open final. The second-seeded Safina made 30 unforced errors and was erratic at times but had no serious problems handling No. 47-ranked Rybarikova in her first match at Melbourne Park since a lopsided loss to Serena Williams in last year's final.
"I'm really happy to be back," said Safina, whose brother Marat Safin won the 2005 Australian title. "People here, they love my brother, so thanks for giving me the same support you give my brother."
It was the first completed match of the tournament, being held on one of the two covered courts. Matches on outside courts were delayed by 45 minutes due to rain, a change to the heat which usually confronts players at the first Grand Slam event of the season.
Maria Sharapova, who won the 2008 Australian Open but was unable to defend the title last year after surgery on her right shoulder, opened the program on Rod Laver Arena _ the main court at Melbourne Park _ against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko.
Safina is only one tournament into a comeback from a back injury which forced her out of the season-ending championship in October. "It's still the beginning of the year and you're still trying to find yourself," she said. "She's a very tough player and I'm very happy that I won."
Kim Clijsters was due to play after Sharapova on Rod Laver Arena against Valerie Tetreault of Canada.
Clijsters won the U.S. Open in September in only her third tournament back from time off after getting married and having a baby.
Justine Henin, a seven-time major winner, makes her Grand Slam comeback against fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens at Hisense Arena, the other main covered show court.
Henin lost to Clijsters at the Brisbane International on Jan. 9, her first tournament since she quit while holding the No. 1 ranking in May 2008. It was Clijsters' U.S. Open title that inspired the 27-year-old Henin to come back.
Serena Williams has won three of the seven majors since Henin last played the Australian Open. Williams enters this tournament as defending champion and winner of the season-ending championship, but won't play until Tuesday in the top half of the draw. U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, No. 5 Andy Murray and No. 7 Andy Roddick highlight the early men's action. Del Potro withdrew from an exhibition tournament at Kooyong last week because of an injured wrist, but his agent said he's expected to be fine for the Australian Open.
Nadal, who beat Roger Federer in five sets in the final last year to win his first major on hard courts, will start the night session on Rod Laver Arena against Australian Peter Luczak.