Venus, Kuznetsova winners in openers; Bartoli falls

Updated: January 15, 2008, 9:10 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams overcame a rash of mistakes to post her first victory at the Australian Open in three years, beating China's Yan Zi 6-2, 7-5 Tuesday.

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The eighth-seeded Williams, who lost in the first round at Melbourne Park in 2006 and was out last year with injuries before starting a comeback that included the Wimbledon title, was her own worst enemy.

She gave Yan two break points with a pair of double-faults in the first set, then virtually handed the Chinese doubles specialist an early break in the second with a string of unforced errors.

Williams, forced to run from side to side, finished with 29 unforced errors and only 19 winners.

Williams shrugged off her mistakes, saying: "Errors happen. That's tennis."

[+] EnlargeVenus Williams
Mark Dadswell/Getty ImagesVenus Williams was plagued by unforced errors, but made enough shots to beat Zi Yan in the first round of the Australian Open.

Fortunately for Williams, Yan didn't have enough offense and was content to slug it out from the baseline -- she finished with only five winners.

Williams, constantly fighting inconsistency, won five consecutive games after trailing 0-2 in the second set. Serving for the match at 5-3, she double-faulted twice while getting broken at love.

But Williams joined sister Serena, the defending champion, in the second round when she broke for the match as Yan netted a string of groundstrokes.

"I felt good out there," Williams said. "Had a lot of fun. Got to hit a lot of balls, which I felt was good. She definitely made me play some balls that I wasn't expecting to come back. It was definitely challenging."

In other women's action, second-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia beat Nathalie Dechy of France, as Kuznetsova found herself an early break down in the first set but recovered strongly to record an impressive victory.

[+] EnlargeSvetlana Kuznetsova
AP Photo/Rick StevensSvetlana Kuznetsova needed just 64 minutes to wrap up a first-round win.
"I feel like it doesn't matter what day I have, I go on the court and I feel more consistent that I can change things," Kuznetsova said.

"Even if I'm not playing well, like I have always Plan B or I always can control myself, you know. Like I'm always there. I feel more consistent. I feel being better there."

Dechy, a semifinalist at Melbourne Park in 2005, had won three of the pair's four previous meetings, but her opponent's greater power proved the difference as the match progressed.

The second set was all one-way traffic and Kuznetsova wrapped up the victory in 64 minutes to set up a meeting with Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

"It was a slow start. It's a different surface [to Sydney last week] and it takes time to get used to it," the Russian said.

"But I started a little bit slow, and then I make it up better."

Meanwhile, No. 4 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-3, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark upset Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-1, 6-1 and Japan's Akiko Morigami beat Michaella Krajicek 6-2, 6-2.

Also progressing were No. 21 Alona Bondarenko; No. 27 Maria Kirilenko, who beat American Meilen Tu 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; and No. 31 Sania Mirza of India.

Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, the last player to beat Justine Henin, lost 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3 to Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson.

The 10th-seeded Bartoli was among four seeded women who went out, with No. 16 Dinara Safina losing to Sahine Lisicki, No. 20 Agnes Szavay of Hungary losing to Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, and No. 22 Lucie Safarova going down to Colombia's Catalina Castano.

Also reaching the second round were No. 4 Ana Ivanovic, No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 14 Nadia Petrova. Tenth-seeded Marion Bartoli of France became the highest-ranked female to lose, the Wimbledon finalist falling to Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.