Serena dispatches Gajdosova in straight sets at Australian Open

Updated: January 14, 2008, 9:55 AM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- 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 Jelena Jankovic and Lindsay Davenport struggled to find top form Monday at the Australian Open. All managed to advance.

"I think I was a wee bit nervous out there," defending champion Williams admitted after beating 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 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 anymore. 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.

Australian Open scores

In-progress scores and results from every match from both sides of the draw throughout the event. Complete scores

"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 the longest recent streak, Venus Williams' string of 35 matches in a row in 2000 -- but well short of Martina Navratilova's record 74 in 1984.

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.

[+] EnlargeSerena Williams
William West/AFP/Getty ImagesExpectations are very different for Serena Williams, who had to beat six seeded players to earn the 2007 Australian Open title.

"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 $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.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press