Lleyton Hewitt of Australia reacts during his men's singles
match against Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia at the Australian
Open in Melbourne. REUTERS/David Gray
Novak Djokovic served up only flashes of his best tennis
on the opening day of the Australian Open but took a
comfortable first step on the path he hopes will lead to an
unprecedented hat-trick of titles at Melbourne Park in two
Perhaps keeping energy in reserve for the battles that lie
ahead, the world number one's workmanlike 6-2 6-4 7-5 victory
over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu on Monday summed up a day
where the year's first grand slam failed to really fire.
"It was a good performance for a first round," said the top
seed, who will play American Ryan Harrison in the second
"There are some few adjustments that I need to make and get a
little bit sharper on the court. But it's expected in the
first match you're still not a 100 percent on the court."
While Djokovic only roused himself when necessary, Maria
Sharapova was ruthless as she swept aside any fears about her
fitness with a thumping 6-0 6-0 win over compatriot Olga
Puchkova on Rod Laver Arena.
American Venus Williams and China's Li Na, both former losing
finalists, also enjoyed emphatic wins to breeze into the
second round, while in-form fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska
extended her perfect start to the year to 10 matches.
Upsets are often the catalyst that jolt a tournament into
life but Argentina's Juan Monaco was the first seed to fall
in the early evening and his 7-6 6-1 6-1 defeat was as much
down to hand and leg injuries as Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.
Lleyton Hewitt did his best to produce another shock in front
of a partisan night crowd but eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic
brought a rapid end to the Australian's 17th appearance at
his home open with a 7-6 7-5 6-3 victory.
Serbian Djokovic only hit top gear twice in his match against
Mathieu - when he faced three break points in the second set
and again when the third set looked destined for a tiebreak.
On the first occasion he rustled up three aces to get himself
out of trouble and on the second, he produced a couple of
exceptional winners to break the Frenchman and set up victory
in an hour and 42 minutes.
"I felt I was in control of the match in the opening two sets
then he started playing better," said Djokovic, who would set
an open era record with three successive titles.
"It was tough to break. But in the end ... I made some good
shots and managed to go through straight sets."
With Andy Murray and Roger Federer not beginning their
campaigns until Tuesday and Rafa Nadal absent injured, Monday
was an opportunity for those players just outside the elite
of the men's game to strut their stuff.
David Ferrer duly continued the form which won him a fourth
Auckland Open title on Saturday to beat Olivier Rochus 6-3
6-4 6-2, while fifth seed Tomas Berdych also progressed with
a 6-3 7-5 6-3 win over American Michael Russell.
Despite the record temperatures which have gripped Australia
for the last couple of weeks, the Australian Open opened to a
mild morning in Melbourne.
There was nothing mild about Sharapova's demolition of
Puchkova on Rod Laver Arena, however, and the Russian powered
her way into the second round in just 55 minutes.
Firing winners at will, particularly off the forehand, the
2008 champion showed no signs of the collar bone injury that
caused her to pull out of the Brisbane warm-up.
"I was happy with the way I started, considering I didn't
play any matches coming in," the 25-year-old said. "It was
just one of those matches where I didn't try to worry about
her too much, I just tried to think about what I had to do."
Williams could meet Sharapova in the third round and proved
she might be a handful for the second seed by winning 12
successive games to beat Kazakh Galina Voskoboeva 6-1 6-0.
It was 10 years ago that Williams lost her only Australian
Open final to her sister Serena, who gets her campaign
underway on Tuesday.
Pole Radwanska, winner of back-to-back warm-up events in
Sydney and Auckland, battled through a tricky first set and
whipped through the second to beat Australian wildcard Bojana
Bobusic 7-5 6-0.
Li lost to Radwanska in Sydney last week to end her own
winning streak at eight matches, but the former French Open
champion continued to thrive under the guidance of her new
coach with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Sesil Karatantcheva.
"He's not only a teacher about tennis, not only about
technique, he's also helping me get my mind stronger on
court," Li said of Justine Henin's former mentor Carlos
Mental fragility has contributed to Sam Stosur's poor
showings at her home grand slam and the ninth seed again
failed to convince in a 7-6 6-3 win over Chang Kai-chen of
"I desperately wanted to win out there today, but I didn't
necessarily feel it any more than my first rounds in grand
slams," said the Australian, who was knocked out in the first
round last year and at her warm-ups in Brisbane and Sydney.