Serena, Henin and Davenport advance | sports | Hindustan Times
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Serena, Henin and Davenport advance

sports Updated: Jan 14, 2008 22:22 IST
Highlight Story

The first round is about survival, finding that little bit extra when things aren't going great and there's an unseeded player across the net, hungry for an upset. Serena Williams and Justine Henin handled it, but Rafael Nadal, Jelena Jankovic and Lindsay Davenport struggled to find top form on Monday at the Australian Open. All managed to advance unlike ninth-seeded Andy Murray of Britain, who became the first high-profile casualty at the season-opening Grand Slam. "I think I was a wee bit nervous out there," defending champion Williams admitted after beating wild-card entry Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3, 6-3 in the first match on center court. "I think everyone could probably tell I was a little scratchy. But it's the first round. Just moving forward."

Last year, Williams was unseeded and ranked 81st, yet she beat six seeded players en route to her eighth, and least expected, Grand Slam title. This time, she's seeded seventh, looks to be in excellent shape and is one of the clear favorites. The courts also have been resurfaced in bright blue.

"It's obviously a lot different - I'm not No. 81 any more. And the court's different - it's a different color," Williams told the crowd after her 62-minute victory.

It didn't help that brisk breezes were swirling around Melbourne Park, and the bright sun played havoc with serve tosses and overheads.

Top-ranked Henin, making her first appearance here since defaulting with an upset stomach in the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo and sitting out last year while going through a divorce, ran off the last six games to finish off a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Japan's Aiko Nakamura.

"It was a little bit windy and she had a game that wasn't the easiest for me to start the tournament. I'm glad it's behind me now," said Henin, who ran her winning streak to 29 matches, six short of Venus Williams' record.

Second-ranked Nadal, the only player to beat Roger Federer at the last 10 Grand Slams at the last two French Opens - had his hands full in beating Viktor Troicki of Serbia 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-1 in the late match as temperatures dipped to 16 C. (61 F.). Nadal saved a set point in the first set when Troicki, constantly going for winners, tried one of several ill-advised drop shots that the speedy Spaniard tracked down. Troicki led 4-2 in the second set before Nadal rallied to win five of the last six games, breaking for the set when the Serbian sent a forehand wide. With Nadal finally in high gear, Troicki ran out of gas in the third set. Murray lost 7-5, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (5) to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who gave Andy Roddick a tough time in the first round last year. Also falling in four sets were 16th-seeded Carlos Moya of Spain to Stefan Koubek of Austria, and No. 18 Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.

Sixth-ranked Roddick had less trouble this time, advancing 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 over Czech qualifier Lukas Dlouhy, who self-destructed with 12 double-faults in the first two sets.

No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko, still subject to an ATP investigation into illegal gambling, beat Michael Llodra 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. Women's No. 3 Jankovic wasn't sure how she managed to beat Austria's Tamira Paszek 2-6, 6-2, 12-10, fending off three match points in the third set, which ran nearly two hours and included 15 service breaks.

"I was praying, `Please, God, help me get out of the situation,"' said Jankovic, who appeared to be fit after struggling with a leg injury at the Hopman Cup earlier this month. "I didn't want to go home, and that was what was driving me." Davenport, the 2000 champion here who has won three of four tournaments since the birth of her first child last June, held off Italy's Sara Errani 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 in what she called the worst outing of her comeback.

"When you can ... kind of scrape through not playing your best, a lot of times you can turn it around," said Davenport, who surpassed Steffi Graf atop the all-time list of money winners on the women's tour at US$21,897,501 with the win. "I'm hoping that happens."

She next plays fifth-seeded Maria Sharapova, who had no easy time downing Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia 6-4, 6-3. Mauresmo, who has slumped from No. 1 to No. 18 since winning here in 2006, opened with a 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-0 victory over Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus. Other women's winners included 11th-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia, No. 12 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, No. 13 Tatiana Golovin of France and No. 15 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.

Three seeded men needed five sets to advance: No. 11 Tommy Robredo rallied from two sets down to oust Mischa Zverev, No. 24 Jarkko Nieminen beat Canada's Frank Dancevic, and No. 28 Gilles Simon downed American Bobby Reynolds.

In a match between two former finalists, 2003 runner-up Rainer Schuettler of Germany beat 2001 runner-up Arnaud Clement of France; while Mardy Fish, who combined with Serena Williams in the United States' Hopman Cup-winning team earlier this month, beat Serbia's Boris Pashanski.

Also advancing were eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France and No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, who won in Sydney last week.