MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 15 TUESDAY -- Stefan Edberg, a first-round loser as the top seed in the French and U.S. opens, slipped away from a sneak attack by scrappy Soviet qualifier Dimitri Poliakov to avoid the same fate at the Australian Open.
Poliakov's sharply angled backhand jabs and crafty blend of deep shots and drops put Edberg through an unexpectedly brisk workout on a cool, overcast day today before the Swede took control for a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 victory.
Edberg, who defaulted with strained stomach muscles in the final on the same center court last year, came up with aces and service winners when he needed them most in a thrilling second set.
Ivan Lendl, who defaulted from a tournament last week with strained stomach muscles, began his attempt for a third straight Australian title with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 romp over Tarik Benhabiles.
Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, more predictable than the weird weather Monday, stylishly kicked off the Open.
Becker paused only for a brief sprinkle and the closing of the retractable roof above center court before beating Jeremy Bates, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Graf slowed down just long enough to allow her opponent, Jennifer Santrock, to catch her breath in their 48-minute, 6-3, 6-0 match.
Also, fourth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini, forgetting the severely sprained ankle that knocked her out here last year, defeated Linda Harvey-Wild, 6-3, 6-1.
Edberg came back twice in his match, from 2-4 in games and 1-3 in the tiebreaker, to beat the 162nd-ranked player, who had to win three qualifying matches to get here and who had played only once in a Grand Slam event.
Mats Wilander, the Australian champion in 1983, 1984 and 1988, struggled with the wind and his timing today in the first set and a half before settling down to beat 19-year-old Australian Heath Denman, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4.
After 11 of 17 Australians lost on the first day of their own tournament, the home fans celebrated two Aussie comebacks and upsets -- Mark Woodforde's 0-6, 7-5 (7-5), 6-2 victory over sixth-seeded Emilio Sanchez, and Jason Stoltenberg's 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 11 Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland.
In other matches today, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the women's sixth seed, beat Natalia Medvedeva, 6-0, 6-2; seventh-seeded Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere beat Jo-Anne Faull, 6-2, 6-0; and 10th-seeded Jana Novotna beat Anne Mintner, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.
Richey Reneberg of the United States pulled out because of a rotator cuff injury. He will be replaced in the draw by Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands, the top-ranked loser in qualifying.