-- Venus Williams shook off the rust of a two-month layoff today and advanced to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over 45th-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova.
After falling behind 0-3 because of some wild shooting, Williams used a stronger serve to carry her through a match in which she and the 17-year-old Russian were nearly even in errors.
On the men's side, No. 2 Andre Agassi -- the oldest seeded man in the draw at age 32 -- beat fellow American Brian Vahaly, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Williams's sister, Serena, starts action Tuesday against France's Emilie Loit. Serena is seeking a "Serena Slam," in which she would hold all four of tennis's major titles at the same time.
Serena missed a chance for a true Grand Slam -- all four majors in one calendar year -- when she twisted her ankle just before last year's Australian Open. She went on to beat Venus in the finals at the French and U.S. opens and Wimbledon.
In her last tournament before the Australian Open, Venus, who has four major titles to her credit, limped off with a lower leg strain while trailing Kim Clijsters 5-0 in the semifinals of the WTA Tour Championships in early November.
Serena, who lost to Clijsters in the November final, warmed up for the Open by playing in the Hopman Cup two weeks ago.
Venus's match was the second on the center court, following a victory by Paradorn Srichaphan, a Thai player who improved his ranking by 110 places in 2002.
The 11th-seeded Srichaphan beat Austrian Jurgen Melzer, 7-5, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0.
"It's really special for me to play the first match on Monday, to open a Grand Slam, and I appreciate it," said Srichaphan, who last year won two titles and scored victories over Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin.
Anna Kournikova, unseeded after a year in which she lost in the first round at all four Grand Slams, defeated Slovakia's Henrieta Nagyova, 6-1, 6-2.
French Open champion Albert Costa needed more than three hours for a 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Germany's David Prinosil, who had to qualify for this tournament.
Costa, seeded eighth, reached the top 10 for the first time last year despite skipping Wimbledon to concentrate on his new marriage. He wed longtime girlfriend Cristina Ventura five days after winning at Roland Garros.
No. 12 Sebastien Grosjean, a semifinalist in 2001, beat Fernando Meligeni, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
Wayne Ferreira, playing in his 50th Grand Slam tournament, ousted Tommy Robredo, 5-7, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.
In other results, No. 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, defeated 17-year-old Swiss player Myriam Casanova, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova defeated Colombia's Fabiola Zuluaga, 7-5, 6-7 (7-3), 6-4, and No. 21 Ai Sugiyama of Japan beat Indonesia's Angelique Widjaja, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Like Serena Williams, Agassi has improved from last year just by starting the Australian Open.
He hurt his right wrist while losing last year's Kooyong Classic exhibition final against Pete Sampras two days before the Open's start, losing a chance to win the tournament three years in a row.
Nevertheless, he went right back to Kooyong this year. He won the Australian Open after winning at Kooyong in 2000 and 2001, and he won at Kooyong again Saturday.