NEW YORK – Once the showers went away, Justine Henin-Hardenne went to work at the U.S. Open.
Efficient as always, Henin-Hardenne waited out a 90-minute rain delay and became the first top player to win at this year's tournament, breezing past Maria Elena Camerin 6-2, 6-1 Monday.
"It wasn't my best tennis, for sure," the second-seeded Belgian said. "I'm happy I played big enough today."
Opening day at Flushing Meadows featured an attractive lineup, on and off the blue courts.
Andre Agassi, sure to be the crowd favorite in his final event, was to play Andrei Pavel on Monday night. Before the match, the National Tennis Center was to be renamed in honor of former star and pioneer Billie Jean King.
Andy Roddick, now coached by Jimmy Connors, played Florent Serra in the afternoon. Roddick hoped to avoid a repeat from last year, when he was upset in the first round.
"Obviously, the story from the 2006 U.S. Open, regardless of what happens, is going to be Andre's last tournament. I hope that it's a celebration of his career, for this whole event, and that's what it should be," Roddick said earlier. "He's earned that right. That will dominate the headlines, and I think it should dominate the headlines."
Former champions Agassi (1994 and 1999), Henin-Hardenne (2003), Roddick (2003), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004) and Lindsay Davenport (1998) were on the first-day schedule. Davenport was hoping to be able to play despite hurting her right shoulder Saturday.
Henin-Hardenne won without a hitch — or challenge. This is the first Grand Slam event to employ instant replay, though neither she nor Camerin opted to contest any line calls.
Henin-Hardenne won the French Open in June for her fifth major title.
"I think it's wide open this year," she said.
Camerin needed to get her left thigh taped during the second set, and grew increasingly frustrated as the match wore on. Henin-Hardenne was steady from the start — she had zero double-faults, to Camerin's seven — and took about a dozen practice serves while her Italian opponent was getting treatment.
Also on the women's side, No. 28 Ai Sugiyama of Japan beat Zuzana Ondraskova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-0; No. 26 Marion Bartoli of France defeated Olga Poutchkova of Russia 6-4, 6-0; and No. 33 Vera Zvonareva of Russia beat Marta Domachowska of Poland 7-6 (4), 6-3.
On the men's side, 20th-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia beat Donald Young 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-1.
Agassi arrived for his record 21st straight U.S. Open. At 36, he's unseeded at the Open for the first time since 1997, and also has a bad back.
"To be here, the inspiration of it — I'm hoping to get out there and feel awesome," he said.
The U.S. Tennis Association approached Agassi's team about the possibility of some sort of tribute during the Open, but the idea was scrapped.
"We're going to respect the wishes of Andre Agassi and respect the fact that he wants to approach this tournament as he does any other one," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.
Agassi, an eight-time major champion, was the U.S. Open runner-up four times, including last year against Roger Federer.
Agassi was well aware the every match he played could be his last.
"I have yet to prepare myself properly for the emotions throughout this whole sort of summer and most of the year," Agassi said. "But in this case, I'm sure I'm underestimating everything I'm going to feel and experience."