Ivanovic survives scare from Dushevina; Williamses roll into second round

NEW YORK -- Ana Ivanovic recovered in a hurry Tuesday to avoid becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round at the U.S. Open, rallying past Vera Dushevina 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

Serena Williams launched her bid for a third U.S. Open title with a ruthless 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko in the first round.

Seventh-seeded Venus Williams advanced, too, beating Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-3. Like her younger sister, she's twice won this Open.

"I've had a chance to play and be healthy, so I'm excited to be here," the elder Williams said.

Former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo flirted with danger before defeating fellow Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Out of whack lately because of an injured right thumb, Ivanovic, the world No. 1, was out of sorts for much of the match against a Russian ranked No. 57. Down 3-2 in the third set, the French Open champion suddenly found her confidence -- and her winning strokes.

"I could feel some shots, lack of practice," Ivanovic said.

The 20-year-old Serb star had played only two matches since Wimbledon in mid-July while her thumb healed. The injury forced Ivanovic to withdraw from the Olympics before they began and kept her from practicing until last week.

"Happy finally to be without the pain," she said.

The worst start ever for a No. 1 woman at the U.S. Open came in 1967 when Maria Bueno drew a first-round bye and then lost in the second round. The last top-seeded man to lose in the first round at Flushing Meadows was Stefan Edberg in 1990.

Once fans started to fill Arthur Ashe Stadium, they saw a possible upset take shape.

Ahead 4-2 in the second set, Ivanovic rushed to a 40-15 lead and seemed on her way to a comfortable win. At deuce, she charged forward but put an easy overhand smash into the net -- one of her 40 unforced errors.

After that, her problems really flared.

"I dropped my concentration," she said.

Soon, Ivanovic was tentative on backhands and failed to finish forehands. Gone was her signature fist pump after winning key points. Instead, she spent more and more time looking into her family box during breaks.

By the final set, Ivanovic was moving better, covering the court and pressuring Dushevina into misses. Even so, she made it tough on herself, double-faulting while trying for a match point.

Ivanovic certainly wasn't worn down from her recent hours on the court. Her travel time, however, took its toll -- she left Beijing to see her doctor in Australia and then came to New York.

Despite winning her first Grand Slam championship this year, Ivanovic sensed her limited practice session would make it tough to take this title.

"I think at the moment it's a lot to ask for," she said.

Fourth seed Serena Williams delivered a typically muscular display of power serving and searing groundstrokes to wrap up victory in just under an hour at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

U.S. Open champion in 1999 and 2002 and runner-up to her sister in 2001, Williams breezed through the opening set in just 19 minutes before breaking her opponent in the 10th game of the second to seal the win.

"I'm feeling great," a smiling Williams said after unleashing six aces in a total of 27 winners. "I'm feeling confident and I feel like I'm just really, really, really enjoying myself.

"I've been feeling good about my serve for a long time now. It's definitely one of my strongest shots and today it was there again," she said.

A winner of three titles this season, Williams was delighted to maintain the form she displayed with her sister en route to their second Olympic doubles crown in Beijing.

"I was doing a lot of the things well to the Olympics and I was really confident coming in here," the 26-year-old said.

Although the shock retirement in May of last year's champion Justine Henin has left the U.S. Open women's draw wide open, Williams played down her status as one of the leading contenders.

"To me it doesn't matter who's in the draw," said the American, who lost to Belgian Henin in the 2007 quarterfinals. "I always come to a tournament trying to do my best and I never look at anyone else as like they're favorites to win."

Asked why she had failed to contend at the last six U.S. Opens, Williams replied: "Because I keep losing matches I shouldn't lose."

"One year I really ran into a lot of bad luck where I got the worst calls possible. I couldn't even hit a shot because I was so nervous they would call every ball out," Williams said, referring to the controversial 2004 quarterfinal match against Jennifer Capriati.

"That really wasn't my fault. I probably would have won that year and I was gonna win that year. Unfortunately it didn't work out," she said.

Williams, who is seeded to meet her sister in the quarterfinals, will next meet Russian Elena Vesnina, a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 winner over Julia Vakulenko of the Ukraine.

Wearing bright red, Williams was dressed for an afternoon workout -- chances are, she'll reveal her more elegant outfits at evening matches. The two-time U.S. Open champion is also ready to dominate the Grand Slam event she last won in 2002.

"I don't even remember holding up the trophy," she said. "I didn't even know I won this tournament."

Seventh-seeded Venus Williams overpowered Stosur, whose best success has come in doubles, breaking the 24-year-old six times in the 77-minute match that opened the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Stosur, winner of 22 career doubles titles including the 2005 U.S. Open crown with American Lisa Raymond and this year's Wimbledon mixed doubles title with American Bob Bryan, broke in the fourth game of the second set to lead 3-1.

Williams, however, broke back in the next game and swept the final five games of the match.

Williams said she was still feeling the glow of winning Olympic doubles gold with her sister in Beijing and mused about a long tennis future alongside her younger sibling.

"That was really such a great moment," she said. "I'll definitely be living off that moment for a while. It's going to take me a year to come down off that."

It was the second Olympic doubles gold for the Williams sisters following their Sydney success in 2000, and Venus Williams said they planned to claim more Olympic hardware.

"Serena and I, we did talk, because we love the Olympics so much, we were saying: 'Oh, wow. We just want to play this forever,'" she said. "So we talked about playing the 2016 Olympics. Who knows? Maybe by then we'll have a life and not be chasing a ball. Maybe we'll have kids.

"If not, even if so, maybe we'll still try to play," she said.

Williams, the U.S. Open winner in 2000 and 2001, was not at her best against Stosur, getting only 50 percent of her first serves in and delivering just one ace.

The 28-year-old seventh seed said things seemed to go easier for her at Wimbledon, where this summer she rang up her fifth singles title at the All-England Club.

"I can't even figure it out," she said. "I started thinking about that this year, especially with No. 5. I started thinking, 'Why is it that my first-serve percentage is at least in the 60s at Wimbledon,' and all this great stuff. But I don't know. Just maybe it's the love of my life."

Williams said her Wimbledon win gave her a big boost.

"I felt through the whole tournament that I didn't play worth a dime and I felt like, 'Oh, I'm playing so bad,'" she said. "So to be able to win and think that I wasn't even playing well … I thought no matter what the circumstance, I can win. So ever since then, I definitely have been a lot more relaxed coming into tournaments."

Williams, whose playing schedule in recent years has been limited by injuries and conflicts with her outside interests, said she is feeling fit and full of love for the game.

"The last few years have kind of been in and out," she added. "Out for a few months and in for a few months. I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to just keep playing throughout the year."

She next meets qualifier Rossana De Los Rios of Paraguay, a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 winner over Hana Sromova of the Czech Republic.

Ivanovic's potential quarterfinal opponent, Russian sixth seed Dinara Safina, kept up her recent hot streak to beat Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-4.

Safina, who has a 16-1 win-loss record since Wimbledon, made no allowances for Ahn, who at 16 is the youngest woman in the draw, and showed off her repertoire of groundstrokes and thundering serves to get her campaign off to a flying start.

Safina, a finalist this year at the French Open and the Beijing Olympics, is one of six women who could be ranked No. 1 on the women's tour by the end of this tournament.

"I think if she will do everything opposite of what I've been doing throughout the years, she will be No. 1 in the world for a long time," brother Marat Safin said. "That's as simple as it is.

"Two tough finals … and I think the third one is here. She should take her chance. … I think she is ready to win the first Grand Slam. I'm really proud of the way she's handling the pressure and the way she's handling herself," he said.

Daniela Hantuchova, on the comeback trail after being sidelined with a foot injury earlier this year, was crushed 6-4, 6-2 by German qualifier Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the first round.

The 11th-seeded Slovak, who reached the Australian Open semifinals in January, struggled to find her range against the big-serving German and was swept aside in 71 minutes.

Groenefeld, ranked 141st after reaching a career-high 14th in 2006, kept her opponent on the back foot by dominating from the baseline and firing seven aces.

"I really didn't get the chance to get into the match," Hantuchova, ranked 12th in the world, said. "She was serving incredibly well and her first serves were around 125 [mph], which gave me no chance. I felt I was always under pressure."

The Slovak said she had not fully recovered from the foot injury, which kept her out of action for two months in the buildup to this year's Wimbledon.

"I don't feel 100 percent fit," she added. "The foot feels much better but I lost the feeling of playing and that takes time to get back."

Groenefeld, slowly working her way back up the world rankings after a protracted contractual battle with her former coach, was delighted to upset Hantuchova.

"It's a kind of a second chance for me in my career and I have a lot more influence now on what I am doing," said the 23-year-old, who stopped playing competitively for nine months when at her lowest ebb. "I have just beaten Daniela so that's a great start. Ranking-wise, that's the best match I have played this year. Every win gives you more confidence and I believe I am on my way back.

"My serve is a great weapon of mine and I think I have improved it this year," she said after winning 96 percent of her first-serve points. "I was very happy with my first serves because I knew I had
to play aggressively against her."

Groenefeld, who had to compete on the lower Challenger circuit after her ranking plummeted, said she had no desire to dwell on the past.

"I didn't play for eight to nine months because of everything that was going on behind the tennis lines," she said. "I had time off to regroup mentally. The final cut came just a couple of months ago.

"Everything is now over. I don't really want to think about the past again. I am much more relaxed and happy outside of the court," she said.

Groenefeld will meet Australian wild card Jessica Moore, a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) winner over American Melanie Oudin, in the second round.

Mauresmo, seeded 32nd, avenged a semifinal loss to Dechy in Cincinnati earlier this month by turning her game up a notch from the second set.

She wore down Dechy with her groundstrokes in a match where both players struggled to hold serve. Mauresmo broke serve 10 times and Dechy had seven breaks in the battle between 29-year-olds. Mauresmo committed 12 double faults and Dechy 11.

"I'm not really happy about the way I played, just happy
about the win," Mauresmo said. "We were both tight. It's
never easy to play against another Frenchwoman.

"I will have to step up to another level in the next one."

Mauresmo said she was keen to avenge the defeat by Dechy.

"I was really looking forward not to lose to the same player
twice in a row and especially this close to the defeat. So I'm
happy about that," Mauresmo said.

The victory put Mauresmo into a second-round match against Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, a 6-0, 6-3 winner over Romania's Monica Niculescu.

Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland scored an upset, beating 31st-seeded Virginie Razzano of France 6-4, 6-1.

Other seeded players to advance were No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who beat Russian Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 6-2; No. 13 Agnes Szavay of Hungary, who defeated American Gail Brodsky 7-5, 6-3; 16th-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta, who rallied past Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 2-6, 6-2, 6-2; No. 18 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who held off American Jill Craybas 6-3, 7-6 (4); No. 17 Alize Cornet of France, who beat compatriot Camille Pin 7-5, 6-0; 19th-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova, who rolled past Olivia Sanchez of France 6-2, 6-4; No. 20 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, who defeated compatriot Petra Cetkovska 6-1, 6-2; No. 27 Alona Bondarenko of the Ukraine, who rallied past American Jamea Jackson 2-6,
6-3, 6-2; and 30th-seeded Ai Sugiyama of Japan, who was leading 4-6, 6-3, 4-2 when Slovenia's Andreja Klepac retired.

In other action, American Bethanie Mattek rallied past Marta Domachowska of Poland 6-7 (7), 7-5, 6-4; Taiwan's Chan Yung-Jan beat Russian Alla Kudryavtseva 4-6, 7-5, 6-3; Tathiana Garbin of Italy beat Estonia's Maret Ani 6-0, 7-6 (5); Julie Coin of France held off Australia's Casey Dellacqua 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4); Italian Roberta Vinci defeated Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France 6-1, 6-4; Raluca Olaru cruised past fellow Romanian Edina Gallovits 6-0, 6-2; Mariana Duque of Colombia rallied past Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn 0-6, 6-3, 6-2; China's Peng Shuai beat Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 6-1, 6-0; Belarus' Olga Govortsova defeated Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-1; Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan beat Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-2, 6-4; Severine Bremond of France beat Germany's Julia Goerges 7-6 (0), 6-4; and Sabine Lisicki of Germany defeated Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3, 6-4.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.