NEW YORK Ana Ivanovic raised her racket, ready for an easy overhead slam in what was shaping up as an easy match.
Then she somehow spiked the ball right into the net from just a few feet away.
Out of whack lately because of an injured right thumb, the world No. 1 was suddenly out of sorts. Ivanovic recovered in time Tuesday to avoid becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round at the U.S. Open, rallying past Vera Dushevina 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
"I could feel some shots, lack of practice," Ivanovic said.
Serena Williams took a more direct approach. Favored by oddsmakers to win the women's title, she overwhelmed Kateryna Bondarenko with her serve in a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
Wearing bright red, the fourth-seeded Williams was dressed for an afternoon workout chances are, she'll reveal her more elegant outfits at evening matches. The two-time U.S. Open champion is ready to dominate the Grand Slam event she last won in 2002.
"I don't even remember holding up the trophy," she said. "I didn't even know I won this tournament."
Seventh-seeded Venus Williams advanced, too, beating Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-3. Like her younger sister, she's twice won this Open.
"I've had a chance to play and be healthy, so I'm excited to be here," the elder Williams said.
Roger Federer, aiming for his fifth straight U.S. Open title, eliminated Maximo Gonzalez 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 in the last stadium match of the night. Gonzalez hung with the former world No. 1 player for a while before Federer won 10 straight games, a run spanning all three sets.
Federer eased into the second round as an unfamiliar second seed. After 237 straight weeks at the top of the rankings, Federer is now behind Rafael Nadal for the first time in 4 1/2 years. Not since the 2004 Australian Open had Federer been seeded anything other than No. 1 at a major.
"I'm motivated to do very well here and for the rest of the season," Federer said.
Marat Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champ, was as volatile as ever, throwing a tantrum after being called for a foot fault during his 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Vince Spadea.
"I don't want fight. I don't want to shout," the Russian said later. "I wish I could play normal matches and enjoy tennis sometimes."
Expected to cruise, Ivanovic struggled against a Russian ranked No. 57. Down 3-2 in the third set, the French Open champion found her confidence and her winning strokes.
The 20-year-old Serbian star had played only two matches since Wimbledon in mid-July while her thumb healed. The injury forced Ivanovic to withdraw from the Olympics before they began and kept her from practicing until last week.
"Happy finally to be without the pain," she said.
The worst start ever for a No. 1 woman at the U.S. Open came in 1967 when Maria Bueno drew a first-round bye and then lost in the second round. The last top-seeded man to lose in the first round at Flushing Meadows was Stefan Edberg in 1990.
Ivanovic was breezing as she took a 4-2 lead in the second set. Ahead 40-15, she seemed on her way to a comfortable win when, at deuce, she charged forward but netted her smash one of her 40 unforced errors.
After that, her problems really flared.
"I dropped my concentration," she said.
Soon, Ivanovic was tentative on backhands and failed to finish forehands. Gone was her signature fist pump after winning key points. Instead, she spent more and more time looking into her family box during breaks.
By the final set, Ivanovic was moving better, covering the court and pressuring Dushevina into misses. Even so, she made it tough on herself, double-faulting while trying for a match point.
Ivanovic certainly wasn't worn down from her recent hours on the court. Her travel time, however, took its toll she left Beijing to see her doctor in Australia and then came to New York.
Despite winning her first Grand Slam championship this year, Ivanovic sensed her limited practice session would make it tough to take this title.
U.S. Open at a glance
MEN'S SEEDED LOSERS: No. 12 Richard Gasquet, No. 20 Nicolas Kiefer and No. 22 Tomas Berdych.
WOMEN'S SEEDED LOSERS: No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 31 Virginie Razzano.
TOP PLAYERS ON COURT WEDNESDAY: Men: No. 3 Novak Djokovic vs. Arnaud Clement, No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko vs. Dudi Sela, No. 8 Andy Roddick vs. Fabrice Santoro. Women: No. 2 Jelena Jankovic vs. Sofia Arvidsson, No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Sorana Cirstea, No. 5 Elena Dementieva vs. Pauline Parmentier.
STAT OF THE DAY: Tommy Haas committed only one unforced error in the fifth set of his victory over No. 12 Richard Gasquet. It came on his first of two match points.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: I think if she will do everything opposite of what I've been doing throughout the years, she will be No. 1 in the world for a long time. Marat Safin, on his sister, Dinara, who won her first-round match on Tuesday.