New York: French Open winner Francesca Schiavone made light work of her first round opponent as the US Open began under brilliant blue skies at Flushing Meadows on Monday with five former champions set to play.
The Italian barely broke sweat on a baking hot day in New York as she eased past Japan`s Ayumi Morita 6-1 6-0 in under an hour to get the year`s last grand slam off to a flying start.
She was joined in the second round minutes later by unseeded American teenager Melanie Oudin, who had the honor of playing her match on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court given 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 US Open hardcourts brought out her best as she dumped Ukrainian qualifier Olga Savchuk 6-3 6-0.
Her swift victory paved the way for Belgium`s Kim Clijsters to make her belated return to centre court as the defending champion, taking on Hungarian Greta Arn.
Clijsters won the US Open for the first time in 2005 but did not return to Flushing Meadows until 2009 since a wrist injury sidelined her in 2006 and then she took a two-year break to start a family.
She won the title in her comeback last year, celebrating the win with her infant daughter watching from the stands, ensuring she would finally return as defending champion this time.
Clijsters was one of five former US Open champions in action on a busy opening to the championship, which began on a picture-postcard summer`s day.
The notable absentee was 2009 men`s winner Juan Martin Del Potro, who withdrew because of a long-term injury, allowing Roger Federer to take the spotlight on centre court.
Federer, who won the title five straight times from 2004 to 2008 before falling to the towering Argentine last year, begins his quest for a sixth title against Del Potro`s countryman Brian Dabul in Monday`s featured night match.
Venus Williams, the champion in 2000 and 2001, and fellow American Andy Roddick, a winner in 2003 who celebrates his 28th birthday on Monday, were also scheduled to play their opening matches on Arthur Ashe. Former champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australian was due to start on the Louis Armstrong stadium.