Safety first for Jankovic in opening win

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The Independent Online

Jelena Jankovic has been one of the players of the year, but the world No 3 has yet to convince that she has what it takes to win a Grand Slam tournament. The 22-year-old Serb, who has won four titles this year, had her best opportunity yet to make it to a Grand Slam final in the US Open here 12 months ago, but let victory slip from her grasp in the semi-finals when she lost to Justine Henin in three sets.

Jankovic opened proceedings in Arthur Ashe Stadium as this year's tournament got under way at Flushing Meadows, New York, yesterday. She beat Jarmila Gajdosova 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 20 minutes to earn a second-round match against Olga Govortsova, of Belarus, but it was a scratchy performance. Her tally of only 17 winners and 11 unforced errors was evidence of a cautious approach, which hardly seemed necessary against an opponent whose heavily strapped left leg clearly restricted her movement.

Gajdosova, a 20-year-old Slovak who is ranked No 101 in the world, knew her only chance was to keep the rallies as short as possible. She hit 11 more winners than Jankovic, but the more telling statistic was her 41 unforced errors.

The first set was straightforward enough, Jankovic breaking serve twice, but the Serb stuttered in the second with the winning post in sight, failing to take three match points in the eighth game and two more in the ninth.

In forcing a tie-break Gajdosova threatened to make a match of it, but Jankovic took control, winning 7-2 after punching a backhand into the corner which her opponent could not reach. With many of the leading contenders in Jankovic's half of the draw, she will need to improve quickly.

Russia's Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva and Japan's Ai Sugiyama were other early winners as the tournament opened in sunshine . Safina beat Colombia's Catalina Castano 6-2, 6-3, Zvonareva knocked out another Russian, Alina Jidkova, 6-0, 6-7, 6-0 and Sugiyama overcame Slovakia's Andreja Klepac 6-3. 6-1.

The first seed to fall in the men's singles was Juan Carlos Ferrero. The No 21 seed, a beaten finalist here against Andy Roddick four years ago, lost 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to his fellow Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez.

The No 4 seed, Nikolai Davydenko was quickly out of the blocks, beating Jesse Levine, an American wild card, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1. The first set was reasonably close, but Levine then began to make errors. Davydenko swept through the second set in just 20 minutes and kept up the pressure to take the third.

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