MELBOURNE — Hoping a third time will be luckier, Vera Zvonareva began her bid to reach a third consecutive Grand Slam final with a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win over Sybille Bammer in the first round of the Australian Open early Tuesday.
Zvonareva, who lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and to Kim Clijsters in the U.S. Open final last year, dominated the first set against the 30-year-old Bammer and tightened her grip on the match in the second. She conceded only four points in the first four games of the second set and didn't allow the Austrian to hold until the sixth game.
The 26-year-old Zvonareva reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park two years ago, her best run at a major until Wimbledon.
"It's tough to play your best tennis in the first match. The most important thing is I've done what I needed to do and moved through to the next one," said Zvonareva, adding that she'd learned only through experience how to navigate the early rounds of a major.
Rafael Nadal's quest to complete his "Rafa Slam" started with a first-round victory that lasted only 11 games and certainly helped him conserve plenty of energy.
The No. 1-ranked Nadal went straight to the practice courts and worked on his serve.
The Spaniard led 6-0, 5-0 when Marcos Daniel retired with a left knee injury.
He sympathized with Daniel, recalling he'd had to retire from the last Australian Open with an injured knee in a quarterfinal loss to Andy Murray. But Nadal recovered quickly and won the next three majors and is now aiming to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam trophies at the same time.
"It's a terrible feeling, for sure. I wish him all the best for a fast recovery," Nadal said after the match. "Last year was a really difficult time when I played this tournament. I came back here playing well ... but to go out like that was hard mentally."Finally, I had a very good season in 2010."
Federer and No. 3 Novak Djokovic played Monday, immediately sending the message to Nadal that he'll have to be at the peak of his game.
Defending champion Federer dismantled Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. The 16-time Grand Slam champion is aiming to become only the second man to win the Australian Open five times; Roy Emerson won six.
Djokovic took no chances against Marcus Granollers, soundly beating the 24-year-old Spaniard 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. He thinks it's premature for anyone to be talking about winning the title.
"I try to think about myself and my matches, the opponents that I have to face, not about the other guys," he said. "Of course, all the credit to Rafa and Roger. They are deservedly the two biggest favorites to win this tournament. They're the two best players of the world.
"[But] definitely this performance gives me more confidence and gives me enough reason to think that I can beat anyone."
Eighth-seeded American Andy Roddick had a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic.
"I feel healthy and strong for the first time in a while," he said.
His U.S. Davis Cup teammates had a tougher time, with Mardy Fish coming back from two sets down to win in five for the first time in his career and Sam Querrey losing in a five-setter.
No. 18 Querrey went down 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 to Lukasz Kubot of Poland, while No. 18 Fish overcame Victor Hanescu of Romania 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
Caroline Wozniacki started her first major tournament as the No. 1-ranked woman with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Argentina's Gisela Dulko, while fourth-seeded Venus Williams advanced 6-3, 6-2 over Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2.
Justine Henin had her struggles against Indian qualifier Sania Mirza before winning 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 in what she called her "first official match in six months" Monday evening.