Tue, Jan 15, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Chan dispatches Hantuchova

UNDER PRESSURE:Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen lost at the Australian Open to local favorite Sam Stosur, who had been facing criticism that she cannot take the home pressure

AFP, MELBOURNE, Australia

Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan beat Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 yesterday on the first day of the Australian Open.

Chan, ranked 118 in the world, overcame her 44th-ranked opponent to reach the second round of the singles at Melbourne Park for only the second time. Next up for Chan is Ana Ivanovic, who defeated Melinda Czink yesterday.

Meanwhile, Sam Stosur finally got a win at the Australian Open to ease some of the building pressure after first-round flops in Brisbane and Sydney this year. The ninth seed and top local hope of tennis-mad Australian fans advanced, but not before a battle with Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen, finally prevailing 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 in 1 hour, 42 minutes.

It was relief for the 28-year-old after her miserable start to the year and broke a run of five consecutive losses on home soil, including a first round exit at the Australian Open last year.

The 2011 US Open champion’s confidence rose after pocketing the first set as she served out the match against the Taiwanese, ranked 86 in the world.

“I think having gone through I’m really pleased that I didn’t let that lead go and find myself back at even terms,” she said. “So it was good to get out of that set and then really kick it on from there,” she said.

Stosur has never gone beyond the fourth round at Melbourne in 10 attempts, sparking criticism that she cannot take the home pressure.

In other matches, Novak Djokovic made a commanding start to his quest for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles yesterday, while local hero Lleyton Hewitt became the first high-profile casualty.

The Serbian world No. 1 was in imperious form as he tossed aside Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 in just 1 hour, 42 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to waltz into the second round of the year’s first Grand Slam event.

Djokovic is bidding to become the first player in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Opens, and he brushed aside the 60th-ranked Mathieu for his 15th straight match win in Melbourne.

“It was a good performance for a first round,” he said. “It’s expected in the first match you’re still not 100 percent on the court. You’re trying to, but it’s going to get better with matches that I play. ”

The top seed sent out a clear message that he has the appetite to go after his fourth Australian crown, and his sixth major title overall, at the venue where he broke through for his first Grand Slam win in 2008.

However, Hewitt, unseeded but playing in his record 17th consecutive home Open, was knocked out by Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-3 over three hours of high-class tennis.

“Against quality players, you’ve got to take your chances, but to his credit Janko raised his level and played some great points,” Hewitt said.

Elsewhere, Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer eased past Belgian Olivier Rochus, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 50 minutes and Czech two-time quarter-finalist Tomas Berdych accounted for American Michael Russell 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

Djokovic did not drop serve and broke the Frenchman’s service four times in a masterful performance ahead of his next round encounter with American Ryan Harrison.

Spanish 10th seed Nicolas Almagro needed five sets and 3 hours, 10 minutes to douse American qualifier Steve Johnson, but Argentine 11th seed Juan Monaco stumbled out in straight sets to Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.

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