Boris Becker, hopeful this will finally be his year to win the $4 million Australian Open, breezed to a first-round Monday along with top women seed Steffi Graf and No. 4 Gabriela Sabatini.
Germany's Becker, the No. 2 seed in the men's draw, advanced with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Briton Jeremy Bates. Becker served 13 aces and upset Bates' aggressive attack with a powerful baseline game.Becker has won three Wimbledon championships and the 1989 U.S. Open, but never made it past the fourth round in six Australian Open appearances.
"It is not easy to come here (to Australia) three weeks before the title but I hope it pays off for me," Becker said. "I feel better than I did last year and I will give it my best shot."
Graf, who has won this title for the last three years, took a while to find her touch Monday before downing unseeded American Jennifer Santrock 6-3, 6-0.
"I am happier with my game tonight than I was at the same time last year," Graf said.
Fourth-seeded Sabatini crushed American Linda Harvey-Wild in 6-3, 6-1.
"That's my first match this year and I am very satisfied with the way I played," she said, while admitting that Graf was still the tournament favorite.
"Steffi is very strong, likes the court and is still the one to beat, although I think Monica Seles is the danger player."
Also in the women's draw, 1990 Wimbledon runner-up and tournament No. 8 seed Zina Garrison of Houston proved too much for Australia's Rennae Stubbs, winning 6-2, 6-0.
Eight of the top 10 women in the world are playing in the 1991 Australian Open, with only American duo Martina Navratilova and Jennifer Capriati missing.
Other men's seeds to advance on the opening day of the year's first Grand Slam tournament included No. 8 Jonas Svensson of Sweden, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 winner over Frenchman Thierry Champion and Aaron Krickstein of the United States, who beat local lad Simon Youl 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.