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Australian Open: Serena Williams feels refreshed after passing her tough opener

By Paul Newman

The Australian Open has traditionally had the reputation as the most unpredictable of the four Grand Slam tournaments but on the opening day here there was little indication of any change at the top of the world order.

The two World No.1s, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who both won three of the four Grand Slam events last year, eased into the second round with emphatic victories, while Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer, two former champions, also hit the ground running.

Williams' withdrawal from the Hopman Cup a fortnight ago with a knee problem had prompted much speculation about her fitness, but the American - who narrowly missed out on winning all four Slams last season - looked in good shape. Italy's Camila Giorgi was a tough first-round opponent, but Williams won 6-4 7-5.

This was Williams' first competitive match since those Calendar Slam hopes were so dramatically ended by her defeat at the hands of Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals of the US Open in September.

Williams said she thought the break had done her good.

"I have been going non-stop since the Olympics in London, and seeing that this is another Olympic year, I kind of wanted to start the year out really fresh and really go at it again as hard as I can," Williams said after her triumph.

"I just needed that time to just recover the best of my ability and get really fit and really train and get ready for the season."

Djokovic, who is going for a sixth triumph here, faced one of the most exciting prospects in the men's game in South Korea's Chung Hyeon. The top seed had to work for his victory but won 6-3 6-2 6-4.

"His baseline game is very good, very solid, especially from the backhand side," Djokovic said after seeing off his young opponent.

"He has a very flat, strong backhand, has solid shots and uses both angles. Once he gets into a good rhythm, he can serve well.

"He's a pretty tall guy. For somebody of his height, he moves very well as well.

"He can play equally well from defence to offence. He's one of the players that people are talking about as a potential top player in the future. He's got that potential, there's absolutely no question about it."

Federer, four times a champion at Melbourne Park, raced to a 6-2 6-1 6-2 victory over Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili.

"I'm really pleased with how I was able to play," Federer said. "It definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence."

Nick Kyrgios and Omar Jasika cheered home supporters with their victories over Pablo Carreno and Illya Marchenko respectively, but Sam Stosur suffered her customary disappointment, losing 6-4 7-6 to Kristyna Pliskova.

In 14 appearances at her home Grand Slam event, Stosur has never gone beyond the fourth round.

Asked how she hoped she would be remembered as a player, the former US Open champion said: "I'll hopefully not be remembered for my Australian Open results."

Sharapova crushed Japan's Nao Hibino 6-1 6-3, but it was a bad day for several of the women's seeds.

Caroline Wozniacki lost 1-6 7-6 6-4 to unseeded 21-year-old Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan while Andrea Petkovic, Sara Errani and Sloane Stephens were also among those whose tournaments were ended prematurely.

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