MELBOURNE, Australia — Top-ranked Roger Federer quickly dispelled any thoughts that the new year might bring a letdown by the man who dominated men’s tennis last year, blasting 54 winners to win his first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday over France’s Fabrice Santoro 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
Andre Agassi, always considered a threat despite his No. 8 seeding, worked his way through stiffness from a hip injury that had raised questions over whether he would even be able to begin pursuit of his fifth title at the season-opening Grand Slam.
He started slow before loosening up the hip and tightening up his game to beat German qualifier Dieter Kindlmann 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.
Qualifier Takao Suzuki became the first Japanese man to reach the second round of the Australian Open in 16 years with a straight-sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over American Jan-Michael Gambill. Suzuki will face Federer in the second round.
But it didn’t take long for the upset bug to bite as No. 5-ranked Carlos Moya lost to fellow-Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Garcia-Lopez, ranked 128th at the end of 2004, broke the former French Open champion’s service in the eighth game of the fourth set and served out at love in the next, making the most of a booming forehand and 43 winners.
“I think this was the most important win of my life,” Garcia-Lopez said. “Carlos is one of the best players in the world. This has given me a lot of confidence. Now I feel I can beat all these players.”
Two-time finalist Marat Safin of Russia pounded Serbian teenager Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 in straight sets to storm into the second round later Monday.
Two Russian women — fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova, the reigning Wimbledon and WTA Championships titlist, and U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded fifth — advanced to the second round with straight-set victories, as did former No. 1 Serena Williams, who had 27 winners to overcome 22 unforced errors in an erratic but easy 6-1, 6-1 victory over Frenchwoman Camille Pin that saw the fashion designer lose a shoe.
No. 2 seed Amelie Mauresmo of France put to rest any concerns about her fitness with a 6-2, 6-3 win over in-form Australian Samantha Stosur.
But No. 16 Ai Sugiyama of Japan and No. 24 Mary Pierce, the 1995 winner here, were among four seeded women to lose on the first day.
Sugiyama made an early exit after being stunned by Slovakian Martina Sucha 7-5, 6-4 while Shinobu Asagoe emerged victorious in her first-round match by comfortably disposing of Germany’s Anca Barna 6-4, 6-2.
“I was really sluggish today and I feel like I destroyed my own rhythm,” said Sugiyama, who has bowed out in the first round of the singles at all three tournaments she has played so far this year. “My legs aren’t in great condition but what can you do?”
The biggest problem for Williams, who completed a “Serena Slam” with a victory in Melbourne in 2003 but missed last year’s first Grand Slam because of a knee injury, came when the seventh-seeded American’s right shoe came off at deuce in the second game and skidded behind the baseline. Williams laced up the shoe and won the point when it was replayed.
Sania Mirza beat Australia’s Cindy Watson 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 to become only the second Indian woman ever to win a main draw match in a Grand Slam.
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