World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is not high on critic’s lists to end her Grand Slam drought at the 2012 Australian Open, so the microscope has moved to the walking wounded parade of former Slam champs such as Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Clijsters, coming off hip and abdominal injuries over the past few months, overcame some early nerves in her opening round on Monday to see off Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler 7-5, 6-1.
The 28-year-old defending champion said it was a moment she had been waiting for a while after missing the last three months of 2011.
“Good nerves. I had that excitement,” Clijsters said. “I wanted to go out there and I wanted to start playing. I’ve had that ever since we came to Australia. I had a good off-season where we worked obviously to try to be in good shape for Australia, then you want to put that to the test and play those matches again.”
The maligned Wozniacki was also a winner Monday, rolling over Aussie Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-1.
Wozniacki said she made no effort to make major changes in her game during the off-season, but improvements come naturally.
“I think you improve all the time, small bits and pieces here and there,” the Dane said. “Then there is things you forget to work on because they’re great, and then you need to work on that. There’s always things you need to improve in your game. That’s why tennis is so interesting but also so frustrating on the practice court, because you’re never perfect…I’ve always played a game where I mix it up quite a bit. So definitely I’ve worked on that, as well.”
Other Top 10 winners were (3) Victoria Azarenka losing only one game to Brit Heather Watson, (5) Li Na easing past Ksenia Pervak 6-3, 6-1, (8) Aggie Radwanska surviving a tough draw against American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-2, and (10) Francesca Schiavone dropping only four games against Spain’s Laura Pous-Tio.
“I was feeling end of the first set really heat on the court,” the defending runner-up Na said. “Also I was feeling no air. I couldn’t breathe. Like I was feeling like, ‘What’s going on?’…So lucky I win so easy in the second set.”
Three seeded players were upset Monday as Russian qualifier Nina Bratchikova ousted (19) Flavia Pennetta in three, American Christina McHale straight-setted (24) Lucie Safarova, and Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva defeated (28) Yanina Wickmayer in straights.
Highlights for Tuesday in Melbourne include (2) Petra Kvitova vs. Russian Vera Dushevina, (6) Samantha Stosur in a tough draw vs. Sorana Cirstea, hard-hitting Austrian Tamira Paszek vs. (12) Serena Williams, wily Argentine veteran Gisela Dulko vs. (4) Maria Sharapova, and a battle of former Top 10ers in Jelena Dokic vs. Anna Chakvetadze.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco — maybe not best to dress-up like a multi-colored sherbet popsicle if you’re going to melt in the sun…American Jack Sock says he has main draw wildcards lined-up after the Australian Open at San Jose and Memphis…Jelena Jankovic signed with Fila…Sam Stosur blamed Australian expectations for a 2-2 win-loss going into the Aussie Open, not looking good for her tough opener…Former tennis great Margaret Court says she won’t be deterred from bringing her homosexual-bashing to the Australian Open by announced protests by gay groups: “Are they not wanting me to come to the Australian Open? Is that what they are trying to do? I don’t run from anything,” Court told The Australian newspaper. “I have always been a champion and always loved what I do and love tennis. I think it is very sad they can bring it into that. It is hard that they can voice their opinions but I am not allowed to voice my opinion. There is something wrong somewhere. We live in a free society and I stand up for families between a husband and a wife. I won’t ever back down on that,” said the 69-year-old homophobe…Juan Martin del Potro’s coach Franco Davin says his charge will not play in Argentina’s next Davis Cup match at Germany on clay because his calendar is already too crowded and the surface transition is too difficult — or could it be the fact that the Argentine Davis Cup team does not get along and del Potro is done with it?…Serena Williams tweeting about her sprained ankle: “Being an athlete requires sacrifice, discipline & heart. There is no winning without hard work. I’m about to overcome this.” — Overcoming your sprained ankle with hard work? Good luck with that. Maybe doing some sprints will help…None of the Big 4 played the Kooyong exo this year, guess guarantee cash was down this year, or else Rafa would have been backing up his truck for the money dump…World No. 10 Andrea Petkovic pulled out of the Australian Open with a stress fracture in her back…Russian Vera Zvonareva signed with Fila…Jelena Dokic said she got bageled by Marion Bartoli in an Aussie Open warm-up event because she went frozen pizza: “It was not about her being the better player. I just really, really got nervous — I really froze. Usually I can control it. Usually it’s not like that. I can get myself together even if it happens pretty quickly, within two, three games. At the latest by the end of the first set. That was not the case today. It’s difficult because I grew up here. You know, I always want to do well here.”…John McEnroe on Andy Murray hiring Ivan Lendl as his coach: “I hate to give credit to Lendl but Murray needed to do something out of the ordinary instead of going with the predictable retread,” McEnroe told the Telegraph. “This is definitely something that was, to me, unexpected. I didn’t know that Lendl wanted to coach. He could bring something to the table, without a doubt. Lendl didn’t win a major until he was 24 and guess what? Murray is 24 right now. So that could provide something worthwhile for Murray. I’m going to be paying attention to see how it works out.”…Spectators were kicked out the Auckland event when it was determined they were involved in betting on hand-held devices…Could the Aussie women choke more in the warm-up events heading into the Aussie Open?…Alex Bogomolov Jr. told ESPN he paid the USTA the $75,000 they demanded in compensation for him switching his nationality from U.S. to Russian: “All of it was pretty much savings we had for our son, the only money we had put aside for our family,” Bogomolov said. “Everything else was tied up in our tennis, even now.”…World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is not a morning person: “I’m not a morning person. I like to sleep. I like to sleep during the day as well. I like my naps. And I feel good in the evening.”
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