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The players held a meeting Saturday to discuss their concerns about the tour, which include the length of the season, the number of tournaments players are required to enter and prize money at Grand Slam tournaments.

Roddick says there’s no “quick fix” to the problems, but he believes the players have a unity they lacked before.

“It is fascinating to see how it will play out,” he says. “You know, I think as the product, I don’t think we should underestimate our leverage in this game, especially if we do have one voice.”

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FINALLY FIT: Maria Sharapova said it felt like “forever” since she last played a match without pain, although she didn’t hang around long on Hisense Arena to enjoy the experience.

Finally recovered from a left ankle injury she sustained in September, the Russian reeled off the first eight games in a 6-0, 6-1 rout of Gisela Dulko on Tuesday.

“I couldn’t wait to start,” the 2008 Australian Open champion said. “It’s just nice to go into a match you know that you’re going to compete again at such a high level in front of so many people, especially a place where I’ve won before.”

Sharapova said the ankle, which forced her to pull out of a planned tuneup event in Brisbane, was no longer troubling her. She may be only 24, but Sharapova is playing in her ninth Australian Open and the three-time Grand Slam winner said she is experienced enough to cope with not playing any matches coming into a major tournament.

Since a breakthrough win at Wimbledon in 2004, Sharapova’s career has been punctuated by a series of injuries. She was out for nine months until May 2009 after right shoulder surgery.

Now, her focus is on being as healthy as possible when the major titles are on the line.

“I’d rather come in feeling good physically than feeling like I played a lot of matches,” she said. “It’s more important to me than anything. I’ve been on the tour for many years, played enough tournaments. I just want to be as ready as I can for the big ones.”

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VETERAN RIVALRY: Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt have been on the ATP Tour a combined 24 years, but surprisingly, they’ve played each other only 13 times.

The two veterans meet in the second round of the Australian Open after each won on Tuesday.

There are many similarities between the players: career records (Roddick is 589-197, Hewitt 551-205), titles (Roddick has 30, Hewitt 28), prize money (Roddick has $20 million, Hewitt $19 million).

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