New York: Kim Clijsters made a triumphant return to the US Open on Monday, capping her belated maiden appearance as a defending grand slam champion with a straight sets win over Hungarian Greta Arn.
Clijsters recovered from a brief lapse in concentration in the second set to win 6-0, 7-5 at the start of a busy first day at Flushing Meadows featuring five former US Open winners.
American Andy Roddick, champion in 2003, celebrated his 28th birthday at Arthur Ashe Stadium with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 romp of France`s Stephane Robert, clearing the way for Roger Federer and Venus Williams to take the spotlight in the night matches.
Clijsters was not at her best against Arn, going 4-0 behind in the second set, but managed to dig herself out of trouble as she finally walked on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court as the defending champion.
It had been a long time coming for the second seed but she said the wait was worth it.
"Just to come out there and defend my title ... I`ve never been in that position," she said. "It couldn`t have come any faster. I wanted it to happen for a while, and I was just excited to go out there."
Clijsters won the title for the first time in 2005 but missed the next three years, initially through a wrist injury and then when she took time off to start a family, before her fairytale comeback last year to capture a second crown.
Roddick, returning to the game from an injury-sapping illness, looked a picture of health in a straight sets win over Robert as the last grand slam of the season began under brilliant blue skies and stifling summer heat.
"Conditions are a little tricky out there. The wind blows a little out there," said Roddick, who fired just eight aces.
Five-time champion Federer and two-time winner Williams were scheduled to start their tournaments in the featured night session while Australia`s Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 champion, was booked to open his tourney inside the Louis Armstrong stadium.
The notable absentees from the list of former champions were the 2009 men`s winner Juan Martin Del Potro, who withdrew because of a long-term injury, and Serena Williams, who withdrew after slicing her foot on broken glass in July.
The opening skirmishes produced few real surprises with Chile`s Fernando Gonzalez, the 2007 Australian Open runner-up, the first seed to make an early exit. He retired from his match with Croatian qualifier Ivan Dodig because of a knee injury.
Sweden`s two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling was lucky not to lose to another qualifier before he regained his composure to beat Austria`s Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4.
Italy`s reigning French Open winner Francesca Schiavone and Russian baseliner Nikolay Davydenko both made light work of their first round opponents.
Schiavone barely broke a sweat as she eased past Japan`s Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-0 in under an hour while Davydenko, a two-time semi-finalist in New York, was not tested in his 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 victory over American Michael Russell.
Unseeded American teenager Melanie Oudin also made a flying start after she opened proceedings on center court following her unexpected run to the quarter-finals last year.
Oudin has struggled to reach those dizzy heights this year, winning just one match at the year`s three other grand slams, but the familiarity of the U.S. Open hardcourts brought out her best as she dumped Ukrainian qualifier Olga Savchuk 6-3, 6-0.
"It`s a real honor to get to start the US Open off on Ashe, first match," Oudin said. "I thought it was pretty cool. I didn`t expect that."