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Serena dispatches Gajdosova in straight sets at Australian Open

1/14/2008 - Tennis

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.

"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.

"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.