Federer starts Open defence in style

Melbourne, Jan 17 (AFP) Defending champion Roger Federerroared into the Australian Open''s second round with an ominousdisplay today while other big names struggled on day one.

Under cloudy skies, the Swiss was irresistible on RodLaver Arena as he banished 97th-ranked Slovakian Lukas Lacko6-1 6-1 6-3 with trademark grace and aggression.

The world number two broke Lacko''s serve seven times andhit a stream of 37 winners and just 18 unforced errors topolish off the Slovak in just 1hr 24min.

Federer, 29, admitted he handed out a tennis lesson toLacko as he goes in search of his fifth Open win -- whichwould stop Rafael Nadal completing the first sweep of all fourmajor titles in more than 40 years.

"I''m sure he enjoyed it somewhat and I''m sure he learneda lot from it and he''s going to come back and be very good,"said Federer, adding he was "not complaining" at trailingarch-rival Nadal in the rankings.

"One and two are both very good. One is better than twobut they still put me on Rod Laver Arena, so I''m notcomplaining at all," he said.

Federer will face either Gilles Simon of France orTaiwan''s Lu Yen-Hsun in the next round as he bids to becomeonly the second man, after Australia''s Roy Emerson, with fiveor more Open wins.

Top-ranked Nadal, whose "Rafa Slam" would unite the majortrophies for the first time since Australia''s Rod Laver wonall four in 1969, plays Marcos Daniel of Brazil in his openingmatch.

Meanwhile America''s number one Andy Roddick went throughin straight sets and Gael Monfils of France came from two setsdown to oust injured Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker.

But it was a disastrous day for Russia''s NikolayDavydenko, the 23rd seed and a quarter-finalist last year, whocrashed out against Germany''s Florian Mayer 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7/4)6-4.

America''s Sam Querrey, the 18th seed, was also sentpacking in a five-set upset defeat to Poland''s Lukasz Kubot.

In the women''s draw, wide open after five-time championSerena Williams pulled out injured, top seed CarolineWozniacki was unconvincing in a 6-3 6-4 win over Argentina''sGisela Dulko.

Wozniacki, under pressure to claim a maiden Slam title toshow critics she is a deserving women''s number one, took onehour 40 min to claim her first victory since being shocked inher first match at the Sydney International.

"Gisela is a tough opponent, especially in the firstround," Wozniacki said. "She changes the rhythm quite a bit soit''s tough to get there and play your own game." (More) AFPSHN

French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and glamorous Russian Maria Sharapova, the 2008 winner here, also camethrough some sticky moments to progress.

Sharapova, pursuing a lengthy comeback from injury,admitted she was jittery during her 6-1 6-3 win overThailand''s Tamarine Tanasugarn after last year''s shockfirst-round exit.

"I was definitely a little bit nervous in the beginning,"said the former women''s number one. "Last year I played thefirst match on centre court and I lost, so I was like, I don''twant this to happen again this year."

Schiavone, the sixth seed, came from a set down to beatArantxa Parra Santonja of Spain 6-7 (4/7) 6-2 6-4.

Belgium''s Kim Clijsters is considered favourite to addthe Australian title to her US Open crown, but faces a toughfirst-round assignment against Russia''s Dinara Safina, the2009 finalist here.

Earlier France''s Julien Benneteau was forced to pull outwith an infected finger, ending a run of 19 straight Glam Slamappearances.

Venus Williams overcame a sluggish start to overpowerItaly''s Sara Errani 6-3 6-2. Williams, the United States'' besthope in the absence of her injured sister Serena, the currentchampion, risks being underdone after not playing a WTAtournament since the US Open.

"It''s only just a matter of believing that I can come outand play well even though I haven''t played as much as myopponents," said Williams, who warmed up with an exhibitiontournament in Hong Kong.

"I worked as hard as I could in the off-season -- Iworked hard to be here." (AFP) SHN

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