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Ivanovic, Safina through to third round

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


AP Sports Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Ana Ivanovic is regaining momentum at the Australian Open, beating Italian Alberta Brianti 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the third round of the year's first major.

Ivanovic lost the last Australian Open final to Maria Sharapova, then won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open and gained the No. 1 ranking.

Now seeded fifth, the 21-year-old Serb is getting inspiration from memories of her run here last year.

"It was amazing, I'm so happy to be back here," Ivanovic said. "I had lots of great matches here last year."

Dictating play and ripping winners into the corners, Ivanovic repeatedly took advantage of Brianti's weak serve. The 28-year-old Italian held serve only three times.

No. 169-ranked Brianti needed treatment on her lower back after getting broken to fall behind 3-0 in the second set. She returned to break Ivanovic's serve and held to pull back to 3-2, but lost the next three games.

Ivanovic, pushing the limits with her shots, had the same number of winners as unforced errors (26).

She won 17 of her 27 net approaches, a sign she's growing in confidence moving forward.

Her fellow Serbs, men's champion Novak Djokovic and women's No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, were to play second-round matches later Wednesday.

No. 3 Dinara Safina rallied for a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-0 win over fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova and will next play No. 25 Kaie Kanepi of Estonia.

Safina lost to a qualifier in the first round here last year, but went on to be runner-up at the French Open, take the Olympic silver medal and reach the U.S. Open semifinals.

No. 10 Nadia Petrova had a 6-3, 6-2 win over India's Sania Mirza and No. 26 Ai Sugiyama of Japan defeated Nathalie Dechy of France 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

In early men's matches, No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain had a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over 31-year-old qualifier Dominik Hrbaty, who had helped Slovakia win the Hopman Cup title in Perth earlier this month.

Safina's brother, 2005 champion Marat Safin, was playing Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain in a second-round match with the winner likely to face Roger Federer in the third round.

Rafael Nadal, ditching his trademark sleeveless top for a conventional T-shirt, bullied Christophe Rochus around Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night in a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 first-round win.

The 22-year-old Spaniard had 10 aces and hit 47 winners in 22 games. Rochus, a Belgian who turned 30 last month, could get nowhere near most of them.

Having the last match of the opening round had its advantages for Nadal. He'd already had a chance to see how Federer, defending champion Djokovic and fourth-ranked Andy Murray had progressed.

He would get another look at Federer on Wednesday. Match two in Federer's quest to tie Pete Sampras' record 14th Grand Slam title is against Russian Evgeny Korolev.

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