Vera Zvonareva moves into 2nd round
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Hoping a third time will be luckier, Vera Zvonareva began her bid to reach a third consecutive Grand Slam final with a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win over Sybille Bammer in her opening match of the Australian Open on Tuesday on Rod Laver Arena.
Zvonareva, who lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and to Kim Clijsters in the U.S. Open final last year, dominated the first set against the 30-year-old Bammer and tightened her grip on the match in the second. She conceded only four points in the first four games of the second set and didn't allow the Austrian to hold until the sixth game.
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"It's tough to play your best tennis in the first match. The most important thing is I've done what I needed to do and moved through to the next one," Zvonareva said.
Such domination is not uncommon in the early rounds of a Grand Slam tournament when top seeds face lowly ranked players, qualifiers or wild cards.
To do it, however, against three-time Grand Slam finalist and former No. 1-ranked player Dinara Safina was remarkable.
Clijsters never allowed Safina, the 2009 Australian Open finalist, to get into the match, placing pinpoint forehands to all areas of the court. When Safina did have an opportunity to return, she gave away points with unforced errors.
Clijsters is one of the friendliest players on the women's tour -- cheery in the locker room, generous, polite. But that's off the court. She learned by losing three Grand Slam finals that intensity is essential to winning a major, something she's hoping to do outside the United States for the first time.
"When you feel that your opponent is not playing their best tennis, you really just try not to focus on that too much," she said. "You try not to become a little bit more easygoing. ... You try to keep that same mentality as when you started 0-0."
Clijsters had been focused on the first round since last week's draw. She realized that even an injured and out-of-form Safina could spring an upset in the first round of a tournament left wide open by the absence of defending champion Serena Williams.
"I expect my opponent to come out and play their best tennis. She obviously didn't do that today," said Clijsters, who has won the U.S. Open twice since returning to the tour from a break to have a child. "But my attitude still was there to try and finish it off and not let her get back in the match."
Safina was less polite toward herself.
"I was sitting in the changeover, and I was like, 'OK, at least how can I get a chance to hurt her?'," Safina said. "There was nothing that I could do to hurt her. Embarrassing."
Ana Ivanovic, the 2007 French Open champion and 2008 Australian Open finalist, slumped to her worst result in seven years at Melbourne when she lost 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 to Russia's Ekaterina Makarova. The 19th-seeded Ivanovic saved five match points before finally going out.
Also advancing were French Open finalist Samantha Stosur, the fifth-seeded Australian beating American wild-card entry Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-1; No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska, who took six of the last seven games after a medical timeout in the third set to hold off Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm 6-4, 4-6, 7-5; No. 7 Jelena Jankovic; No. 25 Petra Kvitova and China's Peng Shuai.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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