World number three Jelena Jankovic had to overcome injury, a dogged opponent and even an errant driver to reach the second round of the Australian Open after an extraordinary first-round escape at Melbourne Park.
The 22-year-old, who came into the tournament with a thigh injury sustained during the Hopman Cup in Perth, needed just over three hours to beat little-known Austrian Tamira Paszek 2-6 6-2 12-10 in a match in which she came from 4-1 down in the deciding set and saved three match points.
Jankovic’s struggle was in stark contrast to the dominance of tournament favourites in defending champion Serena Williams and world number one Justine Henin, who both progressed in straight sets, while Amelie Mauresmo needed three sets to get past Tatiana Poutchek, 6-7 (6/8) 6-0 6-0.
Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova have set up potentially one of the most exciting second-round clashes in the history of the Australian Open.
The pair, who between them have won five grand slam tournaments, will clash on Wednesday – almost certainly at night on Rod Laver Arena.
Davenport, who is aiming to become the first player since Australia’s Evonne Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980 to win a grand slam tournament after becoming a mother, showed all her trademark fighting spirit to come from a break down in the deciding set to beat Italy’s Sara Errani 6-2 3-6 7-5.
And in doing so the 30-year-old, whose ranking slipped to number 73 at the end of last year after she took 11 months off the tour to have her first child, became the all-time prize-money leader in women’s sport by surpassing Steffi Graf’s former mark.
Sharapova, the number five seed who is desperate to win her first Australian Open to go with her 2004 Wimbledon and 2006 US Open successes, advanced much more comfortably by dismissing Croatian Jelena Kostanic Tosic 6-4 6-3.
However, it was Jankovic’s epic battle against Paszek – a 17-year-old who was playing just her fifth grand slam tournament having cut her ranking from 365 to 42 in just two years – that was the stand-out match on day one.