Escaping trouble at the Australian Open

Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 12:11 a.m.
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Australia's Lleyton Hewitt makes a backhand return during his first-round match Tuesday against Arnaud Clement of France at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Melbourne.

The Associated Press
MELBOURNE, Australia - Amelie Mauresmo overcame poor serving in the first set and rallied to beat Dinara Safina 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 in a second-round match Wednesday at the Australian Open.
Mauresmo, ranked No. 1 last September before slipping behind Lindsay Davenport, was broken in her first two service games. Safina, the younger sister of Marat Safin, needed four break points before taking the first game.
She then raced to a 4-0 lead en route to clinching the first set.
Mauresmo, the No. 2 seed, had an early break in the second set but lost her own serve again to lead only 2-1. But that was her last slip, as she took the final 10 games from the 18-year-old Safina.
Mauresmo, the silver medalist at the Athens Olympics, had to withdraw from last year's Australian Open during the quarterfinals because of a back muscle injury.
Vera Zvonareva was the highest-ranked women to lose, as the ninth-seeded player from Russia was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by compatriot Vera Douchevina. Zvonareva struggled with her serve, dropping five service games and producing 11 double-faults.
In other matches Wednesday, Evgenia Linetskaya was a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Martina Sucha; and Li Na beat 28th-seeded Shinobu Asagoe 6-3, 6-4.
On Tuesday, second-ranked Andy Roddick lost only five points on serve in the first set before beating Georgian Irakli Labadze 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt was rarely troubled in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Arnaud Clement.
Davenport, the top-seeded woman, was on the verge of quitting last season but now believes she can win her fourth Grand Slam title.
If her 6-1, 6-0 win on Tuesday over 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez was any indication, she's recovered from a nagging knee problem and a bout of bronchitis that limited her preparation.
Venus Williams, who won the last of her four majors at the U.S. Open in 2001, joined younger sister Serena in the second round with a 6-1, 7-5 victory against Eleni Daniilidou.
''I didn't have the best rhythm ... but I played OK when it really mattered,'' the eighth-seeded Williams said.
French Open champion Anastasia Myskina beat Kveta Peschke 6-1, 6-4.
Two of Russia's other major holders played later Wednesday. Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova was to face Lindsay Lee-Waters. U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was scheduled to meet Marion Bartoli of France.
Kuznetsova was forced to deal with a doping charge on Tuesday. She joined WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott in a sharp rebuke of Belgian regional sports minister Claude Eerdekens, who said the Russian player tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine during a charity event last month.
While the common ingredient in cold medicine is on the banned list during competition, it's not off-limits during the offseason.
''I pride myself on being a clean athlete of the highest integrity and am offended by these disgraceful allegations,'' said Kuznetsova, who passed at least 11 doping tests last season.
Eerdekens defended his decision to identify Kuznetsova, saying, ''I did my duty'' even though other steps in tennis' anti-doping rules weren't followed.
On the men's side, Andre Agassi was to face Rainer Schuettler, while top-ranked Roger Federer was scheduled to take on Takao Suzuki, and No. 4 Safin was set to meet Bohdan Ulihrach.
  • NOTE: Andy Roddick dumped Brad Gilbert as his coach last month because ''the relationship had run its course,'' Roddick said Tuesday at the Australian Open.
    ''I had plateaued a little bit at the end of last year and definitely needed ... to get a fresh start,'' Roddick said after his 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 first-round victory over Irakli Labadze.
    ''I think Brad and I did a great job, and we worked very well together for a year and a half. I just decided it was time to go in a new direction. The last six months or so, I had stopped kind of improving. And that's something I definitely wanted to work on.''
    Roddick, currently ranked No. 2, replaced Gilbert with U.S. Davis Cup and Olympic coach Dean Goldfine.
    Roddick reached No. 1 and won the 2003 U.S. Open during his 1 years with Gilbert.
    ''I called him, and we spoke for a while. He obviously was disappointed,'' Roddick said. ''I was disappointed, too. It's never fun when you have a good amount of success with someone and you part ways. But he's been good about it.''
    A difficult year
  • James Blake is putting a year he ''wouldn't wish on my worst enemy'' behind him and says he is viewing life in a new way.
    His father, Thomas, died of cancer in July. Blake, 25, broke vertebrae in his neck when he slipped on a court during a practice session in Italy in May and missed two months. He also came down with a condition affecting hearing and sight that caused temporary paralysis on one side of his face.
    ''Unfortunately, things happen and all you can do is try to find silver linings and find reasons to improve or find ways to improve on what happened,'' Blake said after a 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 first-round win over Florian Mayer at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
    ''The only thing I think I got out of it is a different perspective on life.''
    Blake's ranking slipped from No. 37 in 2003 to 94th at the end of last year.
    ''You know, if I had gone out here and gotten beat 0, 0 and 0, I would have come off the court, said, 'It's a bad day, (but) my mom's healthy.' She's here with me having a great time. My brother's happy and healthy. I can't complain too much,'' Blake said.
    He next faces third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Arnaud Clement of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
    ''I'm back on tour. I'm having a great time. I'm doing what I love for a living,'' Blake said.
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