15 Jan 2013

Top players progress at Australian Open

4:52 am on 15 January 2013

Novak Djokovic served up only flashes of his best tennis on the opening day of the Australian Open but took a comfortable first step on the path he hopes will lead to an unprecedented hat-trick of titles at Melbourne Park in two weeks' time.

Perhaps keeping energy in reserve for the battles that lie ahead, the world number one's workmanlike straight sets victory over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu summed up a day where the year's first grand slam failed to really fire.

While Djokovic only roused himself when necessary, Maria Sharapova was ruthless as she swept aside any fears about her fitness with a thumping 6-love, 6-love win over compatriot Olga Puchkova on Rod Laver Arena.

American Venus Williams and China's Li Na, both former losing finalists, also enjoyed emphatic wins to breeze into the second round, while in-form fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska extended her perfect start to the year to 10 matches.

Upsets are often the catalyst that jolt a tournament into life but Argentina's Juan Monaco was the first seed to fall in the early evening and his straight sets defeat was as much down to hand and leg injuries as Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.

Lleyton Hewitt did his best to produce another shock in front of a partisan night crowd but eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic brought a rapid end to the Australian's 17th appearance at his home open with a straight sets victory victory.

Only 1 of the 9 Australians in action on the first day, Sam Stosur, won.

The New Zealander Marina Erakovic was beaten in 3 sets by Elize Cornet of France.