MELBOURNE, Australia – It's not as rowdy without Serena around, but if Venus Williams thinks she has a better chance of winning her first Australian Open because her little sister is not here, she's not saying.
Venus Williams is seeded fifth and among the favorites in Melbourne this year in a field considered more open than previous years in part because Serena — who has won the title four times in the past six years — is out with a foot injury.
Venus, whose best showing in Australia was the 2003 final that she lost to Serena, cruised to a straight-sets win over Italy's Sara Errani in the first round Monday, and was asked what it was like without Serena around.
"It's definitely a lot quieter," she said. "I definitely realize and appreciate how great it is to have someone on the tour that happens to be your sister, at the tournaments with them every week, what a great support that is. So I'm counting my blessings now."
But she wouldn't be drawn on whether Serena's absence would make it easier to add the Australian Open to her Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles.
"To be honest, I'm just really focused on getting to the next round, regardless of who's there," she said. "Obviously, you know, Serena is such a great player that, of course, any tournament misses her. But in terms of me actually being here and trying to win, I just have to focus on getting to the next round until it's all over."
ANDY THE ELDER: Andy Roddick says he's comfortable in the role of elder statesman for American tennis players — but he's less at ease on the subject of advancing at the Australian Open.
The eighth-seeded Roddick was one of four American men to play on Monday's opening day in Melbourne, and one of only two to win. Mardy Fish struggled but prevailed in a five-setter; Sam Querrey lost in five and Ryan Harrison was defeated in straight sets.
Roddick is seeking to end a seven-year Grand Slam drought since winning the 2003 U.S. Open — the last time an American man won a major.
To succeed, he'd have to beat 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the quarters, if both advance that far. He doesn't want to think that far ahead.
"Listen, I've lost before that stage the last three slams. So for me to think about that would just be dumb," said Roddick, the only American man in the top 10. "I don't think I've earned the right to look ahead that far."
Roddick served 17 aces on his way to quickly beating Jan Hajek 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, and said he feels fitter than he has in ages.
"I feel healthy and strong for the first time in a while," said the 28-year-old American, who had a mild case of mononucleosis that affected his play last year. "I served well. I put a lot of returns in. So it was good."
The 16th-seeded Fish has struggled recently with an energy-sapping virus but still rallied from two sets down to beat Victor Hanescu 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
"I've never come back from two sets to love before ... it feels good," said 29-year-old Fish, who has never advanced beyond a Grand Slam fourth round since turning pro 10 years ago. "To be honest, I wasn't sure how long I was going to be able to go."
Fish said he's had "a virus of some sort" and was awaiting the results of blood tests. He and Roddick spoke about mononucleosis and the symptoms sounded similar, he said. "But obviously, being able to play 3½ hours, I probably don't have what he had."
Both Roddick and Fish agreed, in separate news conferences, that 23-year-old Querrey — won four titles last year, all on different surfaces — is destined for success in the future.
"We all know Sam's better than losing the first round. It was a rough day today," said Roddick after the No. 18-seeded Querrey lost a five-setter to Lukasz Kubo, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6.
Harrison, who is ranked 172nd, lost to France's Adrian Mannarino, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
Both Harrison and Querrey have both, at one time or another, sought tennis advice from Roddick, he said.
"I always want to try to help the other U.S guys if I can," Roddick said, when asked if he had assumed the mantle of mentor.
"I feel like I've been the elder statesman ever since Andre (Agassi) retired," he said. The eight-time Grand Slam champion left in 2006. "I think that's a role I've always been happy in."
COLD COMFORT: Russia's Nikolay Davydenko was in no mood for sticking around to enjoy the Australian summer after being tumbled out of the Open in the first round for the first time since 2003.
The No. 4 seed said he was heading straight back to Russia to "see snow again" after losing to Germany's unseeded Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
The defeat blunted Davydenko's hopes for a return to the form that sent him to the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park last year, and could send him far enough down the world rankings that he won't be seeded in the next Grand Slam tournament.
"This year it's not so nice," the 29-year-old Davydenko said. "I tried to fight because my tennis was not so great, but it was not enough. I am not young any more. I was just fighting and running for every point."
Davydenko came into the Australian Open buoyed by his performance in Qatar earlier this month, where he upset a virus-affected Rafael Nadal in the semifinal to join Roger Federer in the final, where he was beaten in straight sets.
Davydenko beat both Federer and Nadal in tour matches last year before fracturing his wrist in February, a nagging injury that saw him withdraw from several tournaments and finally be sidelined for three months. He finished the year outside the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time since 2004.
He said he never felt in rhythm against Mayer, ranked 37th in the world. Mayer has never been beyond the third round in a Grand Slam.
Davydenko has never won a major, though he's reached the quarterfinals in Australia four times and the semis at Roland Garros twice. He has won at least one tour title every year for almost a decade.
Davydenko made headlines in 2007 when a British bookmaker voided all bets on one of his matches because of suspicious gambling patterns. The Russian withdrew against Martin Vassallo Arguello in the third set of a match in Poland, citing a foot injury. Both players were cleared of any wrongdoing after an ATP investigation.
Davydenko also was fined $2,000 for lack of effort after a loss that year at the St. Petersburg Open, but the charge was dropped after the Russian won an appeal.
SWEET SONG: Good times never felt so good for Caroline Wozniacki.
The 20-year-old Danish player is riding high after winning six tournaments last year. She made a promising start Monday to the Australian Open, her first major as the No. 1-ranked player.
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Neil Diamond's classic "Sweet Caroline" is on Wozniacki's playlist — even if it was a hit 21 years before she was born.
"They played it quite a few times in the U.S. when I have been going on and off the court," Wozniacki told reporters. "It's a good song. I like it."
Enough to upload into her phone, even.
"Not as my ring tone, but in my music library, yeah," she said.
The song became a standard of Diamond's stadium shows in the 1970s. These days, it's become part of the soundtrack in some sports venues in the United States, including Boston's Fenway Park.
Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.