NEW YORK – Olympic champion Elena Dementieva showed her mettle at the U.S. Open, rallying in the second set to beat Akgul Amanmuradova 6-4, 7-5 on Monday to start what's expected to be a wide-open tournament.
Back from Beijing with her gold, Dementieva won the final four games. The fifth-seeded Russian was glad to win quickly and give her mind and body a break.
"It's very hard not to think about the Olympic Games," Dementieva said. "Very difficult to refocus. I mean, all my thinking is there in Beijing."
Former champions Lindsay Davenport and Svetlana Kuznetsova and fourth-seeded David Ferrer also opened with straight-sets victories. Many of the stars were in a hurry — they wanted to beat the rain in the forecast.
Top-seeded Rafael Nadal, James Blake and Jelena Jankovic were set to play later Monday.
Roger Federer, bidding for his fifth straight U.S. Open title, was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, as were No. 1 Ana Ivanovic and the Williams sisters.
The final Grand Slam event of the season was expected to be a scramble, especially on the women's side. Justine Henin retired and was not back to defend her title and Maria Sharapova was out with an injured shoulder.
Six different women have won the U.S. Open in the last seven years, and Dementieva was seeking her first major championship. But to her, the Olympic singles title counts.
"The biggest goal for the year was Beijing," she said. "In Russia, if you stop anyone in the street and ask what is a Grand Slam, I don't think many people can tell you. But everyone knows the Olympic Games. There is nothing bigger."
During a quick stopover in Moscow to see her mother, she found out how much the gold meant.
"People just come to me and say, 'Oh, I'm happy for you. You're always losing in the final. It's so great that you finally win something big,"' she said.
Dementieva put together a workmanlike win over Amanmuradova. Her opponent from Uzbekistan served for the second set ahead 5-3, but Dementieva still had enough energy.
"I don't know what is best, to be a little bit tired but very comfortable and very positive, or to be fresh and not play in the Olympic Games."
Li Na, who beat Venus Williams in Beijing, beat 24th-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel 2-6, 6-0, 6-1. The No. 23-seeded Davenport defeated Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, 6-4, 6-2 and No. 3 Kuznetsova beat Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 6-2.
On the men's side, the fourth-seeded Ferrer beat Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-2 and No. 32 Gael Monfils downed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-4, 6-4, 6-1. The No. 29-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina lost to Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.