Mixed day for Aussies
SOME things never change in Australian tennis. Lleyton Hewitt can usually be relied upon to put his fans through the wringer, while the weight of local expectations always sits heavily on the shoulders of Sam Stosur, the best Australian woman player for 30 years.
Hewitt, who at No 181 in the world rankings needed a wild card in order to make a record 16th appearance here at the Australian Open, appeared to be coasting against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe when he won the first two sets, only for the German to take the third and go 5-2 up in the fourth. Stebe faltered, however, while 30-year-old Hewitt held firm to win 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 and earn a second-round meeting with Andy Roddick.
Stosur became the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam title for 31 years when she beat Serena Williams in the final of the US Open four months ago, but in 10 appearances here she has never gone beyond the fourth round.
Early losses in Brisbane and Sydney in the first two weeks of the new season indicated that all was not well with the 27-year-old. She made a reasonable start against Romania's Sorana Cirstea, but errors soon started to flow from her racket as freely as water down the nearby River Yarra. "There's not any other word for it but a total disappointment," the world No 5 said after her 7-6, 6-3 loss. "I'm probably very close to crying, having a really awful night."
Stosur admitted the pressure had got to her. "For sure it affects you physically," she said. "That's probably the easiest sign for the outside people to see. You tighten up, your shoulders do get tight, you don't hit through the ball. When anyone's nervous, I think the first thing that goes is your footwork. You don't move your feet as well."
Williams had no such problems, beating Austria's Tamira Paszek 6-3, 6-2 in her opening match, while Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova dropped just three games between them in beating Vera Dushevina and Gisela Dulko.
Novak Djokovic, the defending men's champion, looked in ominous form. After dropping his serve to trail Italy's Paolo Lorenzi 2-1 in the first set, the world No 1 won 17 games in a row to win 6-2, 6-0, 6-0.
Meanwhile, Australians Matt Ebden, James Duckworth and Jelena Dokic have also progressed to the second round.
Ebden knocked out Brazilian Joao Souza in straight sets while teenager Duckworth won his first Grand Slam match with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jurgen Zopp.
Dokic made light work of former world No.5 Anna Chakvetadze, racing through the match 6-2, 6-1.
Australian wildcard Isabella Holland was eliminated by Israeli Shahar Peer.