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Wozniacki, Sharapova start strong ; No. 1 woman cruises in Aussie

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Caroline Wozniacki started her first major as the No. 1-ranked woman with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Argentina's Gisela Dulko today in the Australian Open.

It was the 20-year-old Wozniacki's first victory of the year, following a straight-sets loss to Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova last week in the Sydney International and exhibition losses to No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Wozniacki didn't face a break point in the first set and converted her only chance.

Dulko, the top-ranked doubles player, tested Wozniacki in the second set and pulled level at 4-4 with a service break, but the Danish player broke back immediately and served it out on her second match point after a double-fault on her first.

Wozniacki won six tournaments in 2010, including four of her last six, and can retain the top spot by reaching the semifinals.

"My dream when I was a little girl was to reach No. 1 in the world, and that happened last year. But it's a new year, a new start," she said in a courtside interview. "I'm just looking forward to it."

Earlier on center court, Maria Sharapova won for the first time at Melbourne Park since taking the 2008 title, beating Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1, 6-3.

Sharapova, the former top-ranked player who missed the 2009 tournament because of a shoulder injury and was ousted in the first round last year by fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, struggled with her serve and was inconsistent in the second set. After losing the opening service game at love, Sharapova won seven straight games to take a 6-1, 1-0 lead.

The 33-year-old Tamarine, clearly not in peak physical condition, rallied and had a game point on serve for a 4-1 lead, but 14th-seeded Sharapova broke back and regained momentum, winning the last five games.

Even when she was winning, though, Sharapova had trouble finding range with her serve. She had 10 double-faults and five aces.

Nerves had a role in that.

"I definitely felt that in the beginning. I knew I had an early exit last year and didn't want that to happen this year," said Sharapova, who has the goal in Australia of "staying aggressive and little by little trying to get my game better, maybe to where it was a few years ago and maybe better than that."

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