Australian Open 1st round: Venus, Li Na, Sharapova advance

Melbourne, Australia : Venus Williams used her powerful to full effect to start her Australian Open campaign with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan on Monday. China's Li Na has defeated Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the second round of the Australian Open.

Williams, who had a first-serve percentage of 70 percent, also took advantage of six of 11 break-point opportunities.

After dropping outside the top 100 following a seven-month layoff due to Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease that can cause fatigue, Williams finished in the quarterfinals or better at five of the 10 events she played in 2012 and improved her ranking to No. 24 by year's end.

Williams could meet Maria Sharapova in the third round at Melbourne Park.

Li, the 2011 Australian Open finalist, broke her Kazakh opponent four times in Monday's match and hit 21 winners to just six for Karatantcheva.

Maria Sharapova after winning. AP

The sixth-seeded Li has had a strong start to the year, winning the inaugural Shenzhen Open in China and reaching the semifinals of the Sydney International last week.

Last year, Li lost to Kim Clijsters in the fourth round in Melbourne after holding four match points in the second-set tiebreaker and wept during her post-match news conference.

Maria Sharapova won her first match of the year in convincing fashion, showing little rustiness in a 6-0, 6-0 victory over fellow Russian Olga Puchkova in the first match on the center court at the Australian Open.

Sharapova withdrew from the Brisbane International two weeks ago due to a right collarbone injury but didn't seem to be bothered by it Monday as she pounded 18 winners and served six aces.

It was Sharapova's second 6-0, 6-0 result at a Grand Slam in less than a year. She beat Romanian Alexandra Caduntu by the same score in the first round of the French Open to start her run to the 2012 title at Roland Garros.

AP