Serbian pair, Safin-Safina siblings into 3rd round

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic had second-round wins Wednesday and are showing signs of regaining the momentum that carried them to the finals of the last Australian Open.

The 21-year-old Serbs won the first and second matches on Rod Laver Arena on day three of the season’s first major.

Ivanovic beat Italian Alberta Brianti 6-3, 6-2 and defending men’s champion Djokovic followed that with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Chardy matched the third-ranked Djokovic shot for shot before wilting while trying to force a tiebreaker in the first set.

Djokovic, who ended Roger Federer’s 19-match winning streak at Melbourne Park in last year’s semifinals, was dominating on his serve against Chardy, faltering only when he was broken at love while serving for the match.

But he broke right back, finishing it off when Chardy netted a forehand on match point.

Ivanovic lost the last Australian Open final to Maria Sharapova, then won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open and gained the No. 1 ranking.

Now seeded fifth, she is drawing inspiration from her last run here and has no fear of failure amid the expectations to repeat or improve the performance. Sharapova is not defending the title because of a shoulder injury.

"I was in this situation before French Open last year, coming into the tournament as pretty serious finalist," she said. "That experience will help me a lot to approach this Australian Open."

Dictating play and ripping winners into the corners, Ivanovic repeatedly took advantage of Brianti’s weak serve. The 28-year-old Italian held serve only three times.

No. 169-ranked Brianti needed treatment for her lower back and took a medical time out after getting broken to fall behind 3-0 in the second set.

She returned to break Ivanovic’s serve and held to pull back to 3-2, but lost the next three games. Ivanovic, pushing the limits with her shots, had the same number of winners as unforced errors (26).

She won 17 of her 27 net approaches, a sign she’s growing in confidence moving forward.

"I improved a lot since last match. I was committing much more, coming to the net more often," she said, adding that she still had plenty to improve.

"When you come against top players or high-ranked players, you automatically raise your level and your consistency. That’s something that I can do."

Another Serb, women’s No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, was playing later Wednesday.

No. 3 Dinara Safina overcame 44 unforced errors in a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-0 win over fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova and will next play No. 25 Kaie Kanepi of Estonia.

Safina lost to a qualifier in the first round here last year, but went on to be runner-up at the French Open, take the Olympic silver medal and reach the U.S. Open semifinals.

No. 10 Nadia Petrova had a 6-3, 6-2 win over India’s Sania Mirza and No. 26 Ai Sugiyama of Japan defeated Nathalie Dechy of France 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

On the men’s side, No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain had a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over 31-year-old qualifier Dominik Hrbaty, who helped Slovakia win the Hopman Cup title in Perth earlier this month.

Safina’s brother, 2005 champion Marat Safin, set up a potential third-round matchup with Federer, whom he beat en route to his title here four years ago.

Safin beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

Second-ranked Federer’s quest to tie Pete Sampras’ record 14th Grand Slam title continued Wednesday in a second-round match against Russian Evgeny Korolev.

Rafael Nadal, who beat Federer in the Wimbledon and French Open finals last year and replaced him at No. 1 in the rankings, opened with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 over Christophe Rochus on Tuesday night.

Nadal ditched his trademark sleeveless top for a more conventional T-shirt and even though his bulging biceps aren’t exposed, they’re still driving his powerful ground shots.

The 22-year-old Spaniard hit 47 winners in 22 games against Rochus.

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