Melbourne:The difference in 12 months was easy to see.
Serena Williams, wearing fuschia bicycle shorts and headband, a short white dress and dangling, chandelier-inspired earrings, found her form quickly and beat Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3, 6-3 on Monday in the first match in the AustralianOpen.
Last year, Williams was unseeded, ranked 81st and coming off one of her worst losses on tour - in a Tier 4 event at Hobart - yet she beat six seeded players en route to the title at Melbourne Park. It was her eighth, and least expected, Grand Slam win.
Expectations - hers and the pundits - are much higher this season.
''It's obviously a lot different - I'm not Number 81 any more. And the court's different - it's a different color,'' Williams told the crowd after her 62-minute match at Rod Laver Arena against wild-card entry Gajdosova, a Slovakian who is representing Australia.
''I thought about last year, you know, my last match on that court I was able to win it - and that's all I thought about. I didn't think about holding up the trophy, I just got right back into the swing of things and thought, 'I have to stay focused.'''
The Number 1 and Number 3 ranked women advanced in contrasting ways.
Top-seeded Justine Henin, in her first match at Melbourne Park since retiring from the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo, won the last six games to beat Aiko Nakamura 6-2, 6-2, her 29th consecutive win.
Jelena Jankovic saved three match points and needed 3 hours and nine minutes to edge Austria's Tamira Paszek 2-6, 6-2, 12-10 on Vodafone Arena.
The deciding set was four minutes shy of two hours, included 15 breaks of serve and an injury timeout for each player before third-seeded Jankovic advanced.
Henin was going through a divorce and skipped the last AustralianOpen, then came back to win the French and US Opens and the season-ending championship.
Her only loss in six months was to Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon semifinals.
She won the Sydney International title last Friday.
''It was tough at the beginning because ... it was a little bit windy and she had a game that wasn't easy for me,'' Henin said. ''The first round is not my favorite one, so I'm glad it's behind me now.''
At her pre-tournament news conference, the seventh-seeded Williams said she had not even looked at who she was playing first because she was focussed on herself.
At 3-0 in the first set, the attitude seemed to be vindicated.
But then she stumbled, dropping her serve on three forehand errors. Instead of moving her feet, she was reaching for balls and surprised by some of the pace coming from the Number 145-ranked Gajdosova.
Williams held to lead 4-3, then slipped and fell onto her bottom on the new blue Plexicushion surface. She got up, and regained her focus and momentum.
She won the set with consecutive aces and then dropped just one of her last 16 points on serve and made only five unforced errors in the second set.
Gjadosova double-faulted to set up triple match point, then netted a forehand to finish off the match in 1 hour, two minutes.
''Yeah, I'm feeling good,'' Williams said after she jogged to the net with her left arm raised, index finger outstretched, to meet Gajdosova. ''Most of all, I'm enjoying myself.''
On the men's side, Number 2-ranked Rafael Nadal, the only player to beat Roger Federer at the last 10 Grand Slams - at the last two French Opens - played Viktor Troicki of Serbia in the night match on center court.
In early men's matches, Number 11 Tommy Robredo rallied to fend off Mischa Zverev 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 7-5; Number 24 Jarkko Nieminen outlasted Canada's Frank Dancevic 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 2-6, 6-1; Number 28 Gilles Simon beat American Bobby Reynolds 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-4; and Mardy Fish, who combined with Serena Williams in the United States' Hopman Cup winning team earlier this month, beat Serbia's Boris Pashanski 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
In a match between two former finalists, 2003 runner-up Rainer Schuettler of Germany beat 2001 runner-up Arnaud Clement of France 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-4.
Top-ranked Federer, aiming for a third consecutive AustralianOpen title, has a Tuesday start after a disrupted buildup because of a stomach virus.