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Williams sisters, Dementieva advance

1/20/2009 - Tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams, trying to maintain her record of winning the Australian Open every alternate year since 2003, won her first-round match at Melbourne Park.

Williams beat Chinese wild card Yuan Meng 6-3, 6-2 in 75 minutes Tuesday at Rod Laver Arena. Due to the searing early-afternoon temperatures -- as high as 104 degrees -- officials invoked part of the extreme heat policy that allows players to wear ice vests in the changeovers and to take a 10-minute break at the end of each set.

"Ooh! It's a little hot out here," Williams said.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams is also through to the second round.

Venus beat Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 6-3, rallying from 3-1 down in the second set to win five straight games and the match.

In addition to the heat, the early-afternoon sun was nearly blinding at one end of the court.

Serena let several service tosses drop during one game before shortening her motion, costing her some speed.

When a passing cloud brought brief relief, a fan shouted, "Close the roof!" A swirling, gusty wind added unpredictability, and a flurry of moths annoyed the players and sent staffers scurrying to sweep them off the court during changeovers.

Serena, who won the first of her nine majors in Melbourne, said she was ready for whatever conditions she encountered.

"I love playing out here, as everyone knows," she said. "This one you have to prepare different ... [for] the conditions like today."

Photographers at courtside draped their heads and bodies in wet towels. Spectators fanned themselves with paper and official programs.

Oracene Price, mother and coach of Serena and Venus Williams, sat in the bleachers under an oversized straw hat.

World No. 4 Elena Dementieva also survived the scorching heat and a feisty counterattack from Germany's Kristina Barrois to advance to the second round.

Dementieva, who is unbeaten so far this year after claiming the Auckland and Sydney titles, extended her winning streak to 11 matches with the 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-1 victory.

Dementieva said her success so far this year had almost derailed her campaign at Melbourne Park before it had a chance to advance deep into the tournament.

"I think it was very tough match especially because of the weather conditions," Dementieva said. "And it was not easy for me to come here after playing so many matches in a row. I'm sure I wouldn't have minded one or two extra days [off].

"But those are [the] kind of days you have to survive. I'm just very glad I was able to do it," she said.

Dementieva, who lost in the first round three years ago on the same court, said that disappointment had flashed back into her memory after Barrois had run riot in the second set and then held two break points in the first game of the third.

"I was thinking about it. I was like, 'Oh, no, it's going to happen again,'" Dementieva added of her 2006 first-round exit against another German, Julia Schruff.

"Yeah, I was worried. I think [Barrois] played really well, had nothing to lose [and was] really going for the shot, making some winners and great serve. It was a really tough match to play. So, yeah, I was worried," she said.

While the 27-year-old was pleased with her win, she would now be looking to ensure she recovered sufficiently for her second-round clash with Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic, a 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 winner over Russia's Vera Dushevina.

"It's all about getting some recovery and being basically ready to play," Dementieva said. "I've got a lot of matches and I've got my confidence.

"I feel like it was a good preparation so far, so it's just a matter of how fresh I can be for the rest of the tournament," she said.

Three seeded players lost Tuesday. Kateryna Bondarenko upset ninth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-1; Peng Shuai beat No. 28 Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (4), 6-1; and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez upset No. 32 Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-5, 6-3.

Other seeded players to advance were No. 13 Victoria Azarenka, who cruised past Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-1; No. 14 Patty Schnyder, who rallied past Kristina Mladenovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2; 20th-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, who beat Olga Govortsova 6-4, 6-3; No. 22 Zheng Jie, who cruised past Camille Pin 6-3, 6-3; and No. 31 Alona Bondarenko, who rallied past Olivia Rogowska 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

In other results, Severine Bremond beat Nicole Vaidisova 6-2, 6-1; Lourdes Dominguez crushed Ekaterina Bychkova 6-3, 6-0; Virginie Razzano survived Jarmila Gajdosova 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-4; Tathiana Garbin held off Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 2-6, 7-5; Gisela Dulko held off Anastasiya Yakimova 6-3, 5-7, 6-3; Melinda Czink beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-2; Elena Baltacha beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-1, 6-4; and Sesil Karatantcheva rallied past Nuria Llagostera 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.