Melbourne, Jan 17 (AP) Caroline Wozniacki started herfirst major as the No. 1-ranked woman with a 6-3, 6-4 win overArgentina''s Gisela Dulko on Monday at the Australian Open.
It was the 20-year-old Wozniacki''s first win of the year,following a straight-sets loss to Slovakia''s DominikaCibulkova at the Sydney International last week and exhibitionlosses to No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters at Singaporeand Hong Kong.
Wozniacki didn''t face a break point in the first set andconverted her only chance. Dulko, the top-ranked doublesplayer, tested Wozniacki in the second set and pulled level at4-4 with a service break, but the Danish player broke backimmediately and served it out on her second match point aftera double-fault on her first.
Wozniacki won six tournaments in 2010, including four ofher last six, and can retain the top spot by making thesemifinals here.
"My dream when I was a little girl was to reach No. 1 inthe world, and that happened last year. But it''s a new year, anew start," she said in a courtside interview. "I''m justlooking forward to it."
In the earlier match on center court, Maria Sharapova wonfor the first time at Melbourne Park since taking the 2008Australian Open title, beating Thai veteran TamarineTanasugarn 6-1, 6-3.
Former No. 1-ranked Sharapova, who missed the 2009tournament because of a shoulder injury and was ousted in thefirst round last year by fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko,struggled with her serve and was inconsistent in the secondset.
After losing the opening service game at love, Sharapovawon seven straight games to take a 6-1, 1-0 lead.
The 33-year-old Tamarine, clearly not in peak physicalcondition, rallied and had a game point on serve for a 4-1lead, but 14th-seeded Sharapova broke back and regainedmomentum, winning the last five games. More (AFP) AT
Even when she was winning, though, Sharapova had trouble finding range with her serve. She had 10 double-faults andfive aces.
Nerves had a role in that.
"I definitely felt that in the beginning. I knew I had anearly exit last year and didn''t want that to happen thisyear," said Sharapova, who has the goal in Australia of"staying aggressive and little by little trying to get my gamebetter, maybe to where it was a few years ago and maybe betterthan that."
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone had a couple ofstutters before advancing with a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4 victoryover Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain
The sixth-seeded Schiavone had a chance to serve for thematch at 5-3 in the third but was broken. The Italian playerrecovered quickly, breaking Parra Santonja''s service in thenext game to take the match.
In other women''s first-round matches, No. 20 Kaia Kanepiof Estona beat Slovakia''s Magdalena Rybarikova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3and No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia advanced 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-4 over Germany''s Angelique Kerber.
No. 18 Sam Querrey was the first of the men''s seededplayers eliminated, losing 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 to Poland''sLukasz Kubot, while No. 12 Gael Monfils rallied from two setsand a break down to beat former world junior champion ThiemoDe Bakker of the Netherlands.
De Bakker served for the match in the third set but madea series of unforced errors on key points and Monfilscapitalized, winning 6-7 (5), 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 26 Juan Monaco of Argentina advanced in straight setsover Simon Greul, who got a spot in the main draw earlierMonday when Julien Benneteau of France withdrew because of ininfected finger on his playing hand. (AP) AT