World number one Caroline Wozniacki survived a tricky opening assignment at the Australian Open today before overcoming Gisela Dulko.
Dane Wozniacki was pushed all the way by Dulko, who tops the doubles rankings, before securing a 6-3 6-4 win on Rod Laver Arena.
Argentinian Dulko had far greater variety and a defter touch at the net but Wozniacki’s heavier hitting from the back of the court ultimately proved decisive.
The top seed claimed a solitary break in the opening set and another to start the second.
And when she came through a long service game to establish a 3-1 lead it looked all over.
But 25-year-old Dulko staged a recovery to break back for 4-4 only to throw it away immediately and hand Wozniacki the chance to serve for the match.
She duly converted to repeat her win over the same opponent in the first round here in 2008.
“Gisela is a tough opponent, especially in the first round. She changes the rhythm quite a bit so it’s tough to get there and play your own game,” said Wozniacki afterwards.
“I’m really happy to be through to the next round.
“I’m feeling in good shape and looking forward to play the next one.”
Wozniacki, who is chasing her first grand slam title, followed three-time major winner Maria Sharapova on to court, the Russian opening proceedings with a straightforward victory over Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn.
Sharapova, seeded 14, won 6-1 6-3 but looked edgy early on, something she attributed to a surprise loss to Maria Kirilenko at the same stage 12 months ago.
“I was definitely a little bit nervous in the beginning.Last year I played first match on centre and lost. So I didn’t want that to happen again this year,” she said.
“The first game definitely wasn’t great and I didn’t serve good at all during the match. But she was close to being 4-1 in the second set, and I was able to win 6-1, 6-3. That’s the positive in my game.
“I started playing better as the match went on and I can only improve in the second one.”
Two other contenders advanced early on day one albeit in contrasting ways.
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone was made to struggle by Arantxa Parra Santonja before advancing 6-7 (4/7) 6-2 6-4 while Li Na, a semi-finalist here last year, beat Sofia Arvidsson 6-1 7-5.