Ivanovic takes small step on long trek back to top

By Julian Linden

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serbia's Ana Ivanovic took another small but important step in a long trek she hopes will take her back to the top of world tennis when she easily won her first round match at the Australian Open Tuesday.

Her 6-2 6-3 victory over American Shenay Perry came as no real surprise but there was no mistaking the sense of relief as she eased into the second round at Melbourne Park.

"It was very good, I was pleased with the way I played," she said.

"The conditions were very tough. It was very cold and windy and a lot different than Brisbane or what I been used to.

"But I just tried to work my way through, just taking time, try to stay composed. I thought I played well and served good."

At her most recent grand slam appearance, last year's U.S. Open, Ivanovic was bundled out in the first round. It was her worst performance at any of the majors and epitomized her freefall down the world rankings.

She had climbed to the very top in 2008 when she made the final of the Australian Open then won the French, but her game quickly started spiraling downward.

Since her breakthrough victory at Paris, Ivanovic has won just one tournament, a Tier II event at Linz in 2008, and failed to make it past the fourth round at any of the grand slams.

However, she has started 2010 with renewed hope, enlisting the help of coach Darren Cahill, who guided Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, and making the semi-finals at the Brisbane International.

There were some familiar problems in her match against Perry and she struggled to hold serve in the swirling conditions but the 20th seed kept her cool to complete a confidence-boosting win.

"I'm very happy to have victory, because she had lot of matches already. She's a dangerous opponent," added Ivanovic.

"She likes to come in and serve and volley and doesn't give you much rhythm or time."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)