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Rejuvenated Henin first match at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - Justine Henin's new, philosophical outlook on life and tennis comes with a few fringe benefits. She's dining out more, for one thing.

The relentless intensity that characterized the Belgian as she won seven major singles titles before retiring 20 months ago has given way to a more self-assured, open manner in her second coming to the game.

"I'm a little less superstitious about the past," Henin said after her 6-4, 6-3 win over fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round of the Australian Open yesterday. "I've tested a different restaurant every day since I've arrived - that never happened in the past.

"I feel like I've evolved," she added, laughing, "and there are things that don't have a role in success or failure."

Henin is still driven by a challenge, and that's what brought her back to Melbourne Park for her first major since a quarterfinal loss to Maria Sharapova at the 2008 Australian Open.

Unranked and playing as a wild-card entry, Henin will next play fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva.

A win over Dementieva could put her on course for a quarterfinal against fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, whose win at the U.S. Open last September in only her third tournament out of retirement inspired Henin's comeback.

Clijsters, who beat Henin in the final of a tournament at Brisbane on Jan. 9, won her first-round match, 6-0, 6-4, over Canadian Valerie Tetreault.

Sharapova played her first match here since winning the 2008 title, and recorded her earliest exit at a major in seven years when she lost, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4, to fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko. Sharapova, seeded 14th, had shoulder surgery that kept her off the tour for 10 months.

Others advancing included defending champion Serena Williams, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Urszula Radwanska; Dinara Safina, and No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the reigning French Open champion and No. 20 Ana Ivanovic.

In a men's first-round match played Tuesday, top-seeded Roger Federer struggled before finding his game and beating Igor Andreev, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6, 6-0.

In other men's first-round matches, defending champion Rafael Nadal beat Peter Luczak, 7-6 (0), 6-1, 6-4. Other winners were fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, No. 5 Andy Murray, No. 7 Andy Roddick and Ivo Karlovic, who ousted No. 13 Radek Stepanek in five sets.

New York Sports