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Men's No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic overcomes shaky start to advance at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Back on the court where he won his only Grand Slam title, Novak Djokovic overcame an early struggle against a journeyman player before advancing to the third round of the Australian Open early today.

The No. 3-ranked Djokovic had nine double-faults and 52 unforced errors in his 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Marco Chiudinelli, the Swiss player who was playing in his first Australian Open.

"This court is most special because I won my only Grand Slam here," Djokovic, 22, said of Rod Laver Arena, where he beat Roger Federer in the semifinals en route to the 2008 title. "It has the nicest possible memories."

Sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, who rarely gets onto the center court at this stage of a slam, had a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win over qualifier Illya Marchenko in the low-key manner which has typified an 11-match winning streak.

Meanwhile, former women's No. 1 Ana Ivanovic has the high profile, but no recent form to go with it. The 22-year-old extended her run of poor results in a 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-4 second-round loss to Gisela Dulko.

Henin momentum: Only seven matches into her comeback, Justine Henin held off fifth-ranked Elena Dementieva 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), winning the last three points of the tiebreaker to clinch a second-round win late Wednesday. She ended it on her second match point — 24 minutes after she missed her first chance.

Henin, who retired in May 2008 while she was ranked No. 1, knows she's capable of reproducing the form that won seven titles.

"I lived so much emotion on the court this evening. It was magical," she said. "I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do it, but it was the kind of situation I needed to refind my confidence."

Blake fades: Late in his grueling match Wednesday, Tampa's James Blake, 30, thought he was still capable of beating 21-year-old U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro. He had been ahead two sets to one, but the match eventually went to five sets. And Blake has won only four times in 17 Grand Slam singles matches that went five sets.

Del Potro broke Blake's serve three times in the fifth set to win 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 in 4 hours, 17 minutes.

"It's tough to rank them," Blake said of those five-set losses at majors. "But right now it hurts pretty bad."

Blake was left to ice his knees and mull his future. "I just missed a couple of balls at the wrong times, and he made a couple at the right times," he said. "Nothing discouraged me until that last ball that I missed."

Del Potro had a chance to serve for the match at 6-5 in the fifth set after breaking Blake. But Blake broke back. Del Potro again broke Blake for a 9-8 lead and another chance to serve it out. He closed with a big serve to Blake's backhand on his first match point.

Fast facts

Key results

Men: Rafael Nadal (2) d. Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-2, 6-2; Novak Djokovic (3) d. Marco Chiudinelli 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3; Juan Martin del Potro (4) d. James Blake 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 5-7, 6-3, 10-8; Andy Murray (5) d. Marc Gicquel 6-1, 6-4, 6-3; Nikolay Davydenko (6) d. Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-3, 6-0

Women: Dinara Safina (2) d. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-4; Justine Henin d. Elena Dementieva (5) 7-5, 7-6 (8-6); Gisela Dulko d. Ana Ivanovic 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-4

Today's TV: 7 p.m. Tennis; 11 p.m. ESPN2

Men's No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic overcomes shaky start to advance at Australian Open 01/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 12:08am]
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