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Federer and Clijsters off and running at US Open

New York: The US Open got underway on Monday
with straight-sets wins for second seeds and tournament
betting favourites Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters.

But there were upsets, too, as 2001 champion Lleyton
Hewitt and former world number one Dinara Safina both crashed
out.

Federer, seeking to regain the crown he lost to Juan
Martin del Potro last year after five consecutive titles,
strolled to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Brian Dabul of Argentina
in the featured night match on the Arthur Ashe Centre Court.

The Swiss star, who won just his second tournament of the
year in Cincinnati eight days ago, was never in trouble
against the former top junior as he got back to winning ways
in the tournament he totally dominated from 2004 until last
year`s upset in the final.

"I`ve never lost a night session match here and feel very
much at home. Been in six straight finals and would like to be
there again this year, but the path is long and rough," he
said.

"I missed many break chances but credit to Brian, too. It
was his first time on centre court at a major."

Joining him in the second round was potential
quarter-final opponent Robin Soderling, but he needed five
sets to see off unheralded Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-5,
6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 5-7, 6-4

On a hot and sunny opening day there were wins also for
sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia - a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3
winner over Michael Russell of the United States - and ninth
seed and 2003 champion Andy Roddick, who saw off Stephane
Robert of France 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on the American`s 28th
birthday.

But Hewitt, at 29, found the shot-making of unpredictable
Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu too much to cope with as he went
down 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1.

It was the first time he had lost in the first round at
Flushing Meadows in 11 starts and will cast further doubts on
his competitiveness at the highest level of men`s tennis.

Clijsters, who supplied one of the sports stories of the
year here 12 months ago when she stepped out of retirement and
motherhood to win her second US Open title, defeated Greta Arn
of Hungary 6-0, 7-5.

She took the first set in just 18 minutes, but needed to
fight back after going 0-4 down in the second.

Clijsters said that she felt under no extra pressure to
repeat her outstanding play of last year.

"Obviously last year I had a few more probably unanswered
questions, but I think this year I know what I have to do if I
want to try and do as well as I did last year," she added.

There was a reasonably comfortable winning start for top
American hope Venus Williams.

But there were signs in her 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Italy`s
Roberta Vinci that the 30-year-old third seed, who carries US
hopes with sister Serena out injured, is still feeling some
pain from the left knee injury that has sidelined her since
Wimbledon.

"I was doing pretty good until I landed on my leg on a
swing volley," she said.

"She didn`t make a lot of errors so I was very happy to
get through after not playing forever."

There were wins also for fifth seed Samantha Stosur of
Australia and the woman who beat her in the French Open final,
sixth seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

But former world number one Dinara Safina suffered more
heartache as she attempts to return to her best form after a
crippling back injury.

The tall Russian put on a battling display against Slovak
veteran Daniela Hantuchova, but bowed out in the end 6-3, 6-4.

Bureau Report

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