0

Serena has easy Aussie opener

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams was more subdued in her first Grand Slam match since her outburst at the U.S. Open.

Top-ranked Williams started the defense of her Australian Open title with a 6-2, 6-1 win earlier today against 18-year-old Polish player Urszula Radwanska.

The victory was more like her previous match at Melbourne Park -- a 6-0, 6-3 win over now No. 2-ranked Dinara Safina in last year's final -- than her last in a major: her loss to Kim Clijsters in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows.

Her profanity-laced tirade against a line judge who called her for a foot fault cost Williams that match, a record fine of $82,500 and a suspended ban which means she'll miss a U.S. Open if she has another such outburst at any Grand Slam event in the next two years.

Williams has written about the fine being unfair, saying it wouldn't have been applied to a man in the same situation. But she has accepted it, set up a charity to raise an amount equal to the fines she received, and moved on.

"I always said what I did wasn't right, but I turned that around and I'm actually raising $92,000 to educate ladies, women, also for my school in Africa ... also I'm giving some money to Haiti," she said. "I don't know whoever got fined like that. People said worse, done worse. I just thought it was a bit much."

As for the suspended ban?

"No, that hasn't crossed my mind at all as if I yell too much, it would be a problem," she said. "I feel like I can always be myself.

"You know, I just do the best that I can. I'll say, 'C'mon.' I'll get frustrated. I'll still be human. I'll still make mistakes. I'll still learn from them."

The 28-year-old American hurt her left knee at the Sydney International last Friday night and later said she has been bothered by a foot problem.

Williams played with her right thigh heavily wrapped with a white bandage today, but said it was more for a precaution against injury than anything else. It didn't seem to restrict her movement.

Williams broke Radwanska in the opening game to set the tone. Even serving for the set at 5-1 and 40-0, she huffed when her forehand landed too long. Next point, she clinched the set with an ace.

Radwanska saved three match points before dumping a backhand into the net.

Williams had the vocal backing of the crowd in Melbourne, where she has won the title every odd-numbered year since 2003.

Her sister, Venus Williams, is playing today against Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.

On the men's side, sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko had a 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 win over Dieter Kindlmann of Germany, advancing along with No. 12 Gael Monfils of France, No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and No. 21 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

Americans James Blake and John Isner reached the second round. Blake had a 7-5, 7-5, 6-2 win over Frenchman Arnaud Clement, while Isner held off Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-4.

No. 9 Fernando Verdasco, who lost to fellow Spaniard and eventual champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set semifinal here last year that was the longest match in the tournament's history, had a 6-7 (4) 7-6 (1), 7-5, 6-2 win over wild card entry Carsten Ball of Australia.

Fabrice Santoro extended his Grand Slam career into a fourth decade, but he lasted only one match -- a 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 loss to 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia.

The 37-year-old Frenchman, who started his Grand Slam career at the 1989 French Open, retired last season but returned to Melbourne Park this year, telling organizers he planned to donate his first-round earnings to charity.

American Sam Querrey, seeded 25th, lost to German veteran Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Ana Ivanovic, who reached the Australian Open final and won the French Open in 2008, opened with a 6-2, 6-3 win over American Shenay Perry in the first match to finish today.

Ivanovic, who has become a crowd favorite Down Under since she began dating Australian professional golfer Adam Scott, saved four break points in the final game before holding serve to take the match in cool, overcast conditions.

"I was pleased with the way I played. The conditions were very tough. It was very cold and windy," Ivanovic said. "But I just tried to work my way through, just taking time, try to stay composed. I thought I played well and served good."

The rain that allowed only 26 of the scheduled 64 matches to be completed on the opening day had held off early on day two.

Elsewhere, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 11 Marion Bartoli, No. 13 Sam Stosur and No. 19 Nadia Petrova advanced along with No. 26 Aravane Rezai, who lost to Serena Williams in the Sydney International semifinals last week, beat India's Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-2.

No. 18 Virginie Razzano lost 6-2, 6-3 to Russia's Ekaterina Makarova and American Vania King ousted No. 23 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5.

Justine Henin made her comeback to Grand Slam tennis on Monday night with a 6-4, 6-3 win over fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in her first match at a major since she lost to eventual champion Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Australian Open.

Nadal, U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, No. 5 Andy Murray and No. 7 Andy Roddick were among the men who advanced Monday.

Roger Federer was to start his bid for a 16th major title today against Igor Andreev. No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open winner, had a night match.