Favorites start Australian campaign with wins

Favorites start Australian campaign with wins

Favorites start Australian campaign with wins

Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova made a rousing entrance to the Australian open, beating compatriot Olga Puchkova 6-0, 6-0 in just 55 minutes. AFP Photo

Novak Djokovic served up only flashes of his best tennis on the opening day of the Australian Open but took a comfortable first step on the path he hopes will lead to an unprecedented hat-trick of titles at Melbourne Park in two weeks’ time.

Perhaps keeping energy in reserve for the battles that lie ahead, the world number one’s 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu yesterday summed up a day where the year’s first Grand Slam failed to really fire.

“It was a good performance for a first round,” said Djokovic, who will play Ryan Harrison next. “There are some few adjustments that I need to make and get a little bit sharper. But it’s expected in the first match you’re still not a 100 percent on the court.”

While Djokovic only roused himself when necessary, Maria Sharapova was ruthless as she recorded a 6-0, 6-0 win over compatriot Olga Puchkova.

Emphatic wins

American Venus Williams and China’s Li Na, both former losing finalists, also enjoyed emphatic wins to breeze into the second round, while in-form fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska extended her perfect start to the year to 10 matches.

Upsets are often the catalyst that jolt a tournament into life but Juan Monaco was the first seed to fall in the early evening and his 7-6, 6-1, 6-1 defeat was as much down to hand and leg injuries as Andrey Kuznetsov.

Lleyton Hewitt did his best to produce another shock in front of a partisan crowd but Janko Tipsarevic brought a rapid end to the Australian’s 17th appearance with a 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory.

David Ferrer duly continued the form which won him a fourth Auckland Open title last week to beat Olivier Rochus 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, while fifth seed Tomas Berdych also progressed with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win over Michael Russell.

Despite the record temperatures which have gripped Australia for the last couple of weeks, the Australian Open opened to a mild morning in Melbourne.

There was nothing mild about Sharapova’s demolition of Puchkova, however, and she powered her way into the second round in just 55 minutes.

“I was happy with the way I started, considering I didn’t play any matches coming in,” she said. “It was just one of those matches where I didn’t try to worry about her too much, I just tried to think about what I had to do.”