MELBOURNE, JAN. 14 (MONDAY) -- A year after Gabriela Sabatini left the Australian Open in a wheelchair, she returned cautiously but successfully Monday to lead a charge on Steffi Graf's three-year championship reign.

Sabatini, the U.S. Open champion, began her drive for a second straight Grand Slam title by beating newcomer Linda Harvey-Wild, 6-3, 6-1, in a windblown slugging match on center court.

Sabatini, seeded No. 4, played tentatively in the first set, staying back more than she did in the U.S. Open, as she returned to the tournament where she sprained an ankle in the third-round a year ago.

"It just came to my mind a few times, but it's nothing serious," said Sabatini, who's been taping her ankles heavily since that injury.

Harvey-Wild, 19, an American making her first appearance in Melbourne, took advantage of Sabatini's caution and broke her in the first game. Sabatini grunted angrily, bore down and broke back. Patrolling the baseline and reluctant to rush the net, she didn't go for winners as much as she let her net-charging opponent make mistakes.

Typical of the good young players popping up on the tour, Harvey-Wild turned pro last year after one semester at the University of Southern California and promptly upset Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the first round of the Virginia Slims of Chicago.

Harvey-Wild hit forehands and two-fisted backhands harder than Sabatini, but lacked control.

Katerina Maleeva, seeded No. 5, beat Brenda Schultz, 6-1, 6-3. Amy Frazier, seeded No. 13, beat Kate McDonald.

In men's matches, 12th-seeded Jay Berger beat Magnus Larsson, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. Lars Wahlgren defeated 15th-seeded Marc Rosset, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 9-7.