Justine Henin-Hardenne, the head girl of women’s tennis, taught 15-year-old Australian Olivia Lukaszewicz a harsh lesson about what it takes to mix it with the grown-ups at a grand slam.
The Belgian, in her first Australian Open as world number one, cruised past the Adelaide schoolgirl 6-0 6-0 and booked a second-round tie with Camille Pin of France.
But it was not only Lukaszewicz who realised how far she needs to travel to break into the leading pack, with six women’s seeds falling on day one of the season-opening grand slam.
Russians Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova, both seeded in the top 10, were joined by Spaniard Magui Serna, Meghann Shaughnessy of America, Slovenia’s Tinu Pisnik and Thai star Tamarine Tanasugarn in bowing out.
As if to emphasise Lindsay Davenport’s pre-tournament comments that the gap between the elite group and the chasing pack remains sizeable, the American fifth seed and Amelie Mauresmo joined Henin-Hardenne in moving comfortably on.
Davenport had shaken off the shoulder injury which forced her withdrawal from the adidas International in Sydney to beat Romanian Ruxandra Dragomir Ilie 6-2 6-3; Mauresmo, seeded four, cruised past Taipei’s Chia-Jung Chuang 6-1 6-0.
For Lukaszewicz, the teenage daughter of Polish immigrants, day one of the 2004 Australian Open really was an eye-opener.
“The crowd was unbelievable and to play Justine on centre court was an experience in itself,” said Lukaszewicz.
“It’s good to see where I am at at the moment. I’ll go home and train my heart out to get there.
“It’s a pretty big gap. I think it’s making that first step and getting that breakthrough win, getting there and seeing what the girls do day in and day out.”
Lukaszewicz put up a plucky fight, earning herself six break points, but she could not convert any as Henin-Hardenne swept to a rapid victory.
Mauresmo’s passage was similarly swift as the 24-year-old thrashed Chuang, though Davenport felt rusty after a couple of days’ rest and recuperation.
“I didn’t think I would play great just not after practising for a few days,” she said.
“My serve was not great, but I think it will get better as the tournament goes on.”
That said, Davenport still dominated behind the serve to seal a second-round tie with Emilie Loit, the French girl who gave Serena Williams such a scare in the first round here last year.
Of the seeds to have successfully negotiated the opening day, perhaps it was Daniela Hantuchova’s performance which was most encouraging.
After a run of defeats, the 15th seed arrested her recent poor run of form with a dogged 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win over Italian Adriana Serra Zanetti.
Vera Zvonereva (11), Elena Bovina (21), Magdalena Maleeva (24) and Eleni Daniilidou (19), all came through their first tests.
Russian seventh seed Dementieva was the highest-ranked player to be eliminated, beaten 6-1 6-4 by rising Slovakian star Jelena Jankovic, the world number 79.
“It wasn’t easy. The first set I played well, I didn’t make many mistakes. I won it 6-1,” said Jankovic.
“Then she went to the bathroom and I cooled off and went down 3-0 in the second. Then I came back and was 4-3, 4-4, 5-4 and took the set.
“I’m happy with this win, it’s my first win over a top 10 player.
“It’s my biggest win for now.”
Jankovic won the junior title here in 2001 and reached the second round of the women’s singles last year before losing to the experienced South African Amanda Coetzer in three sets.
Dementieva was followed out by 10th-seeded Russian Petrova, who lost to 20-year-old Hungarian Aniko Kapros 6-3 6-3.
Tanasugarn (31) went down 6-1 6-3 to American Laura Granville; Shaughnessy (20) was beaten by Australian Nicole Pratt, the world number 52, in front of a vocal home crowd late in the evening session.
Pratt said: “What was key for me is the match I played in Sydney.
“I lost to Zvonereva pretty easily. It just proved to me that if I want to beat the players I need to beat, I really need to step up and raise it to a different level.”