Yan Zi and Mirza show the way on Day Two

CHINA’S Yan Zi and India’s Sania Mirza spearheaded Asia’s charge at the Australian Open yesterday, with five players from the region safely into the second round. 

Yan Zi scored the best result of the day, coming through a tough three-setter against 11th seeded Nathalie Dechy of France to clock one of China’s best victories since its players started emerging on the world scene last year. 

The 21-year-old, playing her first-ever Grand Slam match, proved too resilient for Dechy, who reached the semi-finals here last year, winning 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-3. 

Her compatriot Yuan Meng also won, beating Melinda Czink of Hungary and will face second seed Kim Clijsters next. The Belgian earlier accounted for Cho Yoon-jeong of South Korea. 

ASIA’S BEST: Sania Mirza clenches her fist after defeating Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 in the first round of the women’s singles in the Australian Open tennis tournament. INSET: China’s Yan Zi. -- APpic

Mirza, the highest-seeded Asian left at 32, scored a comfortable first round victory against Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, maintaining the form that pushed her to new heights last year. 

The 19-year-old, whose star has risen rapidly since she won a wild card and made the third round of last year’s Australian Open, outplayed Azarenka 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 in 81 minutes. 

“Every tournament I go to, my goal is to win the first round, which I’ve done now,” she said, adding that she was getting used to her rapid ascent as an Asian figurehead. 

“Pressure and expectation are a part and parcel of every athlete’s life and you just have to deal with it.” 

She will now take on Michaella Krajicek of Holland, with the prospect of meeting number three seed Amelie Mauresmo of France in the third round. 

Japan’s Shinobu Asagoe and Aiko Nakamura also kept their nerve to live for another day. 

A US Open quarter-finalist last season, Asagoe came back from a set down to overpower Israeli Shahar Peer 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. 

Nakamura made a meal of French qualifier Alize Cornet before triumphing 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and will now play 31st seed Gisela Dulko of Argentina. 

Sun Tiantian took the first set off Amelie Mauresmo before finally succumbing 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. 

China’s Zheng Jie also failed to progress, losing in three sets to Russia’s Anna Chakvetadze. – AFP 

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