Daniela Hantuchova & Aravane Rezai both fall in round one!

 Daniela Hantuchova, became the first women’s seed to fall as she succumbed 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 9-7 to Russia’s Regina Kulikova in a match that lasted three hours 39 minutes.  After overcoming the 2008 semi-finalist, Kulikova will take on Chanelle Scheppers in the second round after the South African saw off Karolina Sprem of Croatia 4-6 6-4 6-2. France’s Aravane Rezai, seeded 17th, also bowed out after failing to recover from a sluggish start in her clash with the Czech Republic’s Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Caroline Wozniacki overcame a nervy performance to get her Australian Open campaign under way with victory over Argentina’s Gisela Dulko. The 20-year-old Dane, playing her first Grand Slam event as world number one, won 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 41 minutes.

Fourth seed Venus Williams was worked hard by Sara Errani before prevailing 6-3 6-2 and Maria Sharapova beat Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1 6-3. Williams finished with an worse first serve percentage and unforced error count than Errani, but hit two times as many winners as the Italian to advance. The 30-year-old, whose sister and defending champion Serena is absent through a foot injury, has not played a tournament since the US Open in September and initially seemed to be struggling for rhythm. “It’s only just a matter of believing that I can come out and play well even though I haven’t played as much as my opponents,” said Williams, who missed the last two months of the 2010 season with a knee injury.

“I worked as hard as I could in the off-season — I worked hard to be here.”

For Sharapova, who missed the 2009 event with a shoulder injury and lost to Maria Kirilenko in round one last year, it was a first victory at Melbourne Park since lifting the trophy in 2008. The former world number one dropped her opening service game to love, but then won seven straight games as she took the first set and broke at the start of the second. Tanasugarn, 33, recovered the break to lead 3-1 and had a game point on serve for a 4-1 advantage, but Sharapova broke back and regained the momentum, winning the next five games and sealing her win with a fine backhand winner.

Elsewhere, sixth seed Francesca Schiavone survived a scare to beat Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4. The reigning French Open champion was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 in the decider but hit straight book a meeting with Canada’s Rebecca Marino. Chinese ninth seed Li Na enjoyed a far more comfortable passage as she saw off Sofia Arvidsson 6-1 7-5, whole 15th seed Marion Bartoli of France demolished Tathiana Garbin 6-0 6-0. Eighth seed Victoria Azarena of Belarus polished off Kathrin Woerle 6-0 6-2 of Germany in little over an hour.

World number 63 Zahlavova Strycova made light of the 41 ranking places separating her from Rezai as she took the first set to love before battling through in the decider to win 6-0 3-6 7-5.


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