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Djokovic, Kvitova advance at Australian Open

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POSTED January 16, 2012 9:22 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Anyone who didn't know Novak Djokovic won three of the four Grand Slam titles last year only had to look at his shoes.

That's if his emphatic first-round win Tuesday at the Australian Open wasn't evidence enough.

Djokovic started his Australian Open defense with a 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 win over Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, wearing a pair of red-white-and-blue shoes with images of his three major trophies on the sides and a Serbian flag on the heels.

He gave up an early break but immediately broke back at love as he won the next 17 games, saving a breakpoint in the opening game of the second set.

"It was a great performance for (my) first official match of the 2012 season," said the top-ranked Djokovic, whose only lost at a Grand Slam tournament last year was in the French Open semifinals.

The 24-year-old Serb has won two Australian titles — including his first major in 2008 — and his game is well suited to the pace of the hard court. But he struggled at times with the heat at Melbourne Park before his breakthrough season last year and didn't always look comfortable against Lorenzi as the temperature hit 90 degree in the first set.

It didn't stop him entertaining his fans, though. He played a shot between his legs, with his back to the net, to set up a breakpoint chance in the fourth game of the third set which brought the crowd to its feet.

On the women's side, second-ranked Petra Kvitova and No. 4 Maria Sharapova advanced with lopsided wins.

After surrendering her opening service game with a double-fault, Wimbledon champion Kvitova won 12 consecutive games in a 6-2, 6-0 win over Russia's Vera Dushevina.

Wearing the purple color synonymous with Wimbledon, she underlined her growing stature on the women's tour by breaking her Russian rival's serve three times in each set.

Kvitova reached the quarterfinals here last year at the start of a season in which she surged up the rankings. Last week, she missed a chance to overhaul Caroline Wozniacki's No. 1 ranking when she lost in the Sydney International semifinals. She needed to win the Sydney tournament to take the top ranking.

But she gets another chance at Melbourne Park, where she's one of six women who can finish No. 1.

Sharapova, a former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, won the first eight games of a 6-0, 6-1 win over Gisela Dulko of Argentina in her first match since returning from an left ankle injury.

The 2008 champion needed just 58 minutes for the win and the only game she lost was on her own serve. She then saved three breakpoints in the last game before serving out the match.

"I've been here for 14 days getting used to the conditions," Sharapova said. "Back in the heat now, but it was like winter before. Different preparation, but sometimes it's just the way it goes."

Other women advancing included No. 27 Maria Kirilenko, who beat Australian hope Jarmila Gajdosova 6-4, 6-2, Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak, Shahar Peer of Israel and 2000 Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic.

Men's No. 5 seed David Ferrer advanced in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, over Rui Machado of Portugal. No. 24 Kei Nishikori of Japan and No. 32 Alex Bogomolov Jr., now representing Russia, also advanced. Germany's Philipp Petzschner routed Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 to advance.

Serena Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam winner, will play a night match on Tuesday against Tamira Paszek. She didn't get to defend her title last year because of injury and comes into the season's first major with concern over her left ankle, which she twisted at a tuneup tournament in Brisbane earlier this month.

U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur will be trying to end a rough stretch in which the Aussie has only one win in two tournaments on home soil this month.

Rafael Nadal, who lost his No. 1 ranking and six finals to Djokovic last year, wondered if he'd even be able to play his first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday after his right knee cracked and cramped and caused him "unbelievable pain" on the eve of the tournament.

He already had plenty on his mind going into the year's first Grand Slam tournament. There was his ailing shoulder and his spat with Roger Federer over player conditions on the tour, a rare clash between these respectful rivals that has since been smoothed over.

After hours of medical tests and treatment, Nadal decided to play but was "scared" when he took the court against American qualifier Alex Kuznetsov. Judging by the scoreline, the outcome looked very matter of fact: Nadal won 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

Nadal and Federer are in the same half of the draw at a major for the first time since 2005.

Third-seeded Federer started his bid for a 17th major title with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia, showing no signs of a back problem which forced him out of a Doha tournament earlier this month. He then just as quickly batted away any notion of a simmering feud with Nadal. Ever the statesman, Federer conceded that players differed on ways of resolving certain issues and "things are fine between us ... We can't always agree on everything."

Mardy Fish, the highest-ranked of the American men, opened with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters and French Open winner Li Na, who lost to Clijsters in last year's Australian final, also advanced on Monday along with top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki.

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