Nervous starts and upsets characterized Day One on the women’s side at the Australian Open, where former No. 1 and No. 11 seed Justine Henin survived an early onslaught from hard-hitting Indian qualifier Sania Mirza before prevailing 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
“She’s not a qualifier like maybe the others, as she has been in this type of situation. She has been in the Top 30, I think,” Henin said of Mirza, who was a regular in tour draws until sidelined by injuries and a high-profile marriage. “She can play a very solid tennis. So the beginning wasn’t that easy for me. She was playing high rhythm, not a lot of mistakes at the beginning, and it was tough for me because I was running a lot. To get into the match, that wasn’t the perfect situation for me to come into the tournament.”
The Belgian says her elbow injury is still an ongoing issue, but workable with treatment.
“I think physically I’m probably better than a year ago. And I’m getting there,” Henin said. “I mean, it’s been my first official match in the last six months. So it’s not just one week that you find everything (snapping fingers). But the passion is back. I know I came through difficult moments in the last few months. But now I’m here, and I’m very happy about that…I know I will do all the [elbow] treatments and everything we have to do. But mentally for me it’s important also that I can just put my mind somewhere else on something very important, on my game right now.”
Seeds that failed to dig out of the dirt in three sets on Monday were No. 17 Aravane Rezai losing to Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-0, 3-6, 7-5, and No. 28 Daniela Hantuchova falling to Russian Regina Kulikova 7-6(3), 3-6, 9-7.
Escaping in three-setters were No. 6 Francesca Schiavone over Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja, No. 20 Kaia Kanepi over Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova from a set down, No. 21 Yanina Wickmayer over Aussie Jarmila Groth, No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova over German Angelique Kerber, and No. 32 Tsvetana Pironkova over France’s Pauline Parmentier.
Favorites world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 4 Venus Williams restored normalcy with straight-set wins over Argentina’s Gisela Dulko and Italy’s Sara Errani respectively.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling like I’m in a good shape. Happy to be through from the first round,” Wozniacki said. “It was a bit windy out there. You really had to have a look where the wind was blowing.”
Venus said she was going to wear the “nude” look from last year but changed her mind at the last minute in choosing the on-court wear of her own design company.
“The design, it really was an illusion dress, the illusion when I wear the nude shorts under,” Venus said. “But at the last minute I decided not to. I just decided to wear the black ones. It’s just about focusing on the dress and not anything else. I mean, I had black shorts under. But normally like it’s all about the dress because it has a mesh and a satin kind of material. Of course, it’s all sports gear, and it’s all about that zipper, too. A lot of the focus of the dress is the zipper. So, of course, always I have fun designing my dresses.”
In other seeded action No. 14 Maria Sharapova advanced easily, and No. 15 Marion Bartoli showed her blistering form in a double bagel over Italy’s Tathiana Garbin.
Sharapova talked about dumping long-time coach Michael Joyce.
“We worked for six years together,” Sharapova said. “After a really long period of time, I think a few things become a routine. I think from both of our perspectives it was really a good move to bring in a new voice, a fresh perspective into the team. You know, he was within that transition. We all talked about it as a team. Michael is like a brother to me. We talk all the time. Obviously it’s different not having him at a tournament after so many years. Yeah, I mean, it’s part of an athlete’s career…It’s a break for now. I haven’t really had a new coach for many, many years.”
Sharapova and Joyce reportedly split in Auckland prior to the Australian Open. She is now working with another former ATP player, Thomas Hogstedt.
All-unseeded results of note were three qualifying winners in Brit Anne Keothavong, former Dutch world No. 1 junior Arantxa Rus (d. hot-handed American Bethanie Mattek-Sands), and Russian Vesna Manasieva.
Drama-ridden Aussie wildcard Jelena Dokic was also a winner, defeating Czech Zuzana Ondraskova 6-3, 6-2.
Dokic also split with her coach days prior to the tournament, Dutchman Glenn Schaap.
We split a couple days ago, right before the Australian Open,” Dokic said. “Nothing special. No hard feelings, you know. There are certain people that suit you for your game and for your personality. This was just not one of them. This is the first time we traveled together, so it was all kind of a test period anyway. I feel like he didn’t suit the type of tennis that I wanted to play…That was my feeling inside. I went by my instinct. I think I made the right choice. I’m working with Tennis Australia, actually with Louise Pleming. She’s helping me out…I do want to listen to the coach, but at the same time, I’m also not 15 years old. So I have some experience and I know what I want to do.”
Highlights on Tuesday include (2) Vera Zvonareva vs. Sybille “The Whammer” Bammer, (5) Sam Stosur vs. American wildcard hopeful Lauren Davis, a battle of former No. 1s in Dinara Safina vs. (3) Kim Clijsters, American hopeful Coco Vandeweghe vs. French hopeful Alize Cornet, elder upset specialist Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. (12) Agnieszka Radwanska, (24) Alisa Kleybanova vs. U.S. college star Irina Falconi, and (26) Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez vs. 2011 fast starter Greta Arn.
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