Federer and Williams into second round

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MELBOURNE, January 17 – Defending champion Roger Federer and 2008 winner Novak Djokovic roared into the Australian Open's second round on Monday, as Venus Williams eclipsed her women's rivals on day one.

In cool and cloudy conditions, Federer was irresistible as he banished 97th-ranked Slovakian Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-1, 6-3, while Djokovic was also in destructive mood against Spain’s Marcel Granollers.

Federer, the world number two, broke Lacko’s serve seven times and hit a stream of 37 winners and just 18 unforced errors to polish off the Slovak in just 1hr 24min.

A fifth Open win for Federer, 29, would also stop top-ranked Rafael Nadal, his long-time nemesis, completing the first sweep of all four major titles in more than 40 years.

"I was able to keep on pressing and put him on the back foot. For me it was no surprise he started to get into the match at one stage in the third set," Federer said.

Federer will face Gilles Simon of France in the next round as he bids to become only the second man, after Australia’s Roy Emerson, with five or more Open wins.

Serbia’s Djokovic began his tournament with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 demolition of Granollers to finish the late match in a quickfire 1hr 31min.

"It’s still a long way to go and think about later stages of the tournament. I want to think about one match at a time," he said.

"(But) definitely this performance gives me more confidence and gives me enough reason to think that I can beat anyone."

Top-ranked Nadal, whose "Rafa Slam" would unite the major trophies for the first time since Australia’s Rod Laver won all four in 1969, plays Marcos Daniel of Brazil in his opening match.

Meanwhile, America’s number one Andy Roddick went through in straight sets and Gael Monfils of France came from two sets down to oust injured Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker.

But it was a disastrous day for Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko, the 23rd seed and a quarter-finalist last year, who crashed out against Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) 6-4.

America’s Sam Querrey, the 18th seed, was also sent packing in a five-set upset defeat to Poland’s Lukasz Kubot.

Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych went through in straight sets, American Mardy Fish recovered from two sets down to beat Victor Hanescu and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco overcame Germany’s Rainer Schuettler.

In the women’s draw, blown open by five-time champion Serena Williams’ injury withdrawal, her sister Venus Williams overcame a slow start to overpower Italy’s Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2.

Williams, who used an inhaler between games, was untroubled by the fact she has not played a tour event since the US Open in September, and warmed up only with an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki was unconvincing in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentina’s Gisela Dulko, while French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and 2008 winner Maria Sharapova also had some uncomfortable moments.

Seven-time major-winner Justine Henin, who is recovering from an elbow injury, made heavy weather of her 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory over India’s Sania Mirza, who came through qualifying.

Sharapova, pursuing a lengthy comeback from injury, admitted she was jittery during her 6-1, 6-3 win over Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn after last year’s shock first-round exit.

"I was definitely a little bit nervous in the beginning," said the former women’s number one. "Last year I played the first match on centre court and I lost, so I was like, I don’t want this to happen again this year."

Schiavone, the sixth seed, came from a set down to beat Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-4.

Belgium’s Kim Clijsters is considered favourite to add the Australian title to her US Open crown, but faces a first-round assignment against Russia’s Dinara Safina, the 2009 finalist here.

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