(Reuters) - Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep advanced to the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, though Halep was forced to come back from a set down to beat Kaia Kanepi.
Six-time champion Djokovic, chasing his third Grand Slam title in a row, cruised past American qualifier Mitchell Krueger 6-3 6-2 6-2 at the Rod Laver Arena.
The 31-year-old Serb has been in sparkling form since recovering from elbow surgery last year, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to regain the world number one ranking.
"It feels great to be healthy and back on this court again," said Djokovic, who was appearing in his 300th Grand Slam match.
"Twelve months ago it was quite a different sensation on the court with the elbow injury. Twelve months forward, obviously things are quite different."
Halep roared back to conquer Kaia Kanepi 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2, avenging her U.S. Open opening round defeat by the Estonian veteran last year.
The 27-year-old Romanian will next face American Sofia Kenin, who arrived in Melbourne after clinching her maiden WTA title at the Hobart International last week.
Serena Williams, chasing a record 24th Grand Slam title in the Open Era, started her campaign with an impressive 6-0 6-2 win over German Tatjana Maria.
The 37-year-old American, whose 23rd major title came in Melbourne when she was pregnant two years ago, peppered the court with her heavy groundstrokes to seal the victory in just 49 minutes.
Serena's older sister Venus had to work harder for her 6-7(3) 7-6(3) 6-2 win over Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu.
An injury-hampered Nick Kyrgios suffered his earliest exit from his home Grand Slam when he was beaten by Canadian power-hitter Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6(5) 6-4.
Dominant Djokovic shines in Melbourne Park opener [nL8N1ZF3UQ]
Determined Halep survives Kanepi onslaught to reach second round [nL8N1ZF388]
Jolted Zverev overpowers Bedene to advance [nL8N1ZF0HN]
Ruthless Serena makes strong start in Melbourne return [nL8N1ZF08F]
Venus Williams secures come-from-behind win [nL3N1ZF2GL]
Osaka clubs her way into Australian Open second round [nL8N1ZF3JH]
Injury-troubled Kyrgios falls to cap bleak day for Australia [nL8N1ZF3MX]
Shapovalov seeks quick fix after 'breaking' Twitter account [nL8N1ZF2TW]
Karlovic, 39, defies Father Time to reach second round [nL8N1ZF1RD]
Australian Open license sees launch of the 'Serena-tard' [nL3N1ZF28M]
'Vote for me!' says political animal Keys [nL8N1ZF0N2]
Evans shoulders slim British hopes against Federer [nL3N1ZF3MO]
Highlights of Tuesday's second day of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year (all times GMT):
1530 THIEM PREVAILS IN FIVE-SET THRILLER
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem survived an opening round scare as he overcame Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-4 6-3 5-7 1-6 6-3 in a late-night thriller, which concluded at 0208 local time early Wednesday.
"It's a very special scene here at a Grand Slam in such a nice stadium... and that's worth to fight it," Austrian Thiem said.
"Thanks (to the crowd) for staying out so late."
1140 OSAKA RACES INTO SECOND ROUND
Fourth seed Naomi Osaka produced a clinical display to beat Poland's Magda Linette 6-4 6-2 in 58 minutes.
The reigning U.S. Open champion struck 30 winners to 16 unforced errors in a measured performance to reach the second round at Melbourne for a fourth straight year.
1115 HALEP SURVIVES KANEPI SCARE
World number one Simona Halep came back from a set down to beat Kaia Kanepi 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2, avenging her U.S. Open opening round defeat by the Estonian veteran last year.
Halep will next face American Sofia Kenin, who won her maiden WTA title at the Hobart International last week without dropping a set.
1020 DJOKOVIC EASES PAST KRUEGER
World number one Novak Djokovic needed just over two hours to beat American qualifier Mitchell Krueger 6-3 6-2 6-2 in the opening round.
The six-time Melbourne champion won 41 of 48 points on his first serve and struck 42 winners in an all-round display.
It was Djokovic's 15th consecutive Grand Slam match win after lifting titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.
0830 DETERMINED VENUS STAYS AFLOAT
Former world number one Venus Williams was made to work hard in her opener against Romanian 25th seed Mihaela Buzarnescu but the 2017 runner-up switched gears in the decider to secure a 6-7(3) 7-6(3) 6-2 victory.
0819 AUSTRALIAN TEEN POPYRIN UPSETS MISCHA ZVEREV
Australian teenager Alexei Popyrin advanced to the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career after beating Mischa Zverev 7-5 7-6(7) 6-4. The 19-year-old plays Benoit Paire or Dominic Thiem in the next round.
0648 END OF THE ROAD FOR AZARENKA
Twice Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, ranked 52 in the world, began her match against Laura Siegemund strongly but could not quell the determined German who prevailed 6-7(5) 6-4 6-2.
0629 KOKKINAKIS RETIRES WITH PECTORAL INJURY
Local hope Thanasi Kokkinakis won the opening set against Japan's Taro Daniel before a pectoral injury forced the big-serving 22-year-old to stop with the score at 7-5 2-4.
"Hurts to watch... get better @TKokkinakis - your level is undeniable my brother. Rest up," his fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios tweeted.
0612 BOUCHARD RELISHING TEST AGAINST 'GREATEST-EVER' SERENA
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard said she was in awe of Serena Williams ahead of a second round meeting with the 23-times Grand Slam winner.
"I think she's the greatest ever. So it's just so cool that I'll be able to share the court with her and an opportunity to see how I compare to one of the best players," Bouchard said.
"Her ranking is top 20 right now, but to me she's always number one. I admire the longevity of her career, her dominance over such a long amount of time, how she's come back so many times from injury, pregnancy.
"I don't want to talk about it too much and put her on too much of a pedestal because I have to play her in two days, but I
0500 ZVEREV OFF TO FLYER AGAINST BEDENE
ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev stamped his authority as one of the main contenders for the year's first Grand Slam, thumping Aljaz Bedene 6-4 6-1 6-4.
The German hit 11 aces and 35 winners during a controlled display to prevail in a little under two hours.
0445 KASATKINA FALLS TO BACSINSZKY
Russian 10th seed Daria Kasatkina made a slew of mistakes in her 6-3 6-0 defeat by Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky to crash out of the tournament. Kasatkina served nine double faults and had 24 unforced errors to hand the advantage to her rival.
0440 MUGURUZA TOO GOOD FOR ZHENG
Former world number one Garbine Muguruza defeated China's Zheng Saisai 6-2 6-3 in 75 minutes.
Muguruza, who has slipped to number 18 in the rankings after an inconsistent 2018, meets Johanna Konta in the second round after the Briton overcame local hope Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(7).
0312 NISHIKORI SURVIVES SCARE
Kamil Majchrzak had eighth seed Kei Nishikori on the ropes with a two-set lead before severe cramps in his left quadricep and right hand forced him to eventually retire from the contest.
With Majchrzak's movement restricted, Nishikori leveled the match at two sets each and went ahead in the decider before the Polish qualifier retired with the score at 6-3 7-6(6) 0-6 2-6 0-3.
0241 MERCILESS SERENA BLASTS PAST MARIA
Serena Williams began her quest for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title with a 6-0 6-2 thrashing of Germany's Tatjana Maria in 49 minutes to cruise into the second round.
The American next faces Eugenie Bouchard who outclassed Peng Shuai 6-2 6-1.
0143 PLISKOVA SAFELY THROUGH
Former world number one Karolina Pliskova eased past Czech compatriot Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-2 in 69 minutes to improve her record against qualifiers at all majors to 5-1.
"It's a good start. I'm happy I saved some time on court... but it's always tough to play a Czech girl," Pliskova said.
"I would say I'm lucky because I'm always playing them at every tournament, so I'm happy that I'm through."
0010 PLAY UNDERWAY AT MELBOURNE PARK
Play got underway on schedule under sunny skies at 11 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) with the temperature hovering just under the 27 degrees Celsius mark with a forecast high of 33C.
(Compiled by Greg Stutchbury, Shrivathsa Sridhar and Hardik Vyas; Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury/Amlan Chakraborty and Christian Radnedge)