Toronto, Canada – By Greg Stutchbury
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Dinara Safina overcame a rusty performance to advance to the second round of the Australian Open Monday, just a couple of months after fearing that she might not be able to play at Melbourne Park.
Safina, last year's beaten finalist, committed nine double faults and 39 unforced errors before eventually beating a dogged Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4 6-4 in the first match on Hisense Arena.
The 23-year-old Safina, who missed the season-ending Tour Championships last October with a back injury, was nevertheless happy with her performance and felt her game would improve as the tournament went on.
"Let's say it was not an easy first round match. She's a very good opponent. She plays very good," the second seed said.
"I can start to build up much more confidence and using more my shots. I had some good moments and bad moments, but overall I'm happy I went through, and I'm pretty satisfied with everything."
Safina beat Rybarikova 6-0 6-1 the last time they met at Roland Garros in 2008 but found the Slovak much more of a difficult opponent Monday as she struggled with her timing while attempting to force her shots.
The back injury, which plagued her for the final three months of last season, at one stage had her thinking that she might have to skip the first grand slam of 2010.
"(I) was doubting the tournaments before but my recovery went pretty fast and I was even ready for Sydney (last week)."
Having been reprieved, the former world number one was even starting to enjoy her tennis again.
"At the end of the last year I was tired, exhausted, like I had no more fun on the court," she added. "But now I feel like I'm back and I'm enjoying every moment on the court.
"Last year I was every time like pushing myself, like, 'okay, I have to do it'. But now I do it with a much more desire."
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)