- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 15, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - This was a first-round match so important for Caroline Wozniacki that it kept her boyfriend, Rory McIlroy, awake at night.

The former No. 1-ranked Wozniacki came back from 3-0 down in the final set to win the last six games of the match against big-hitting German Sabine Lisicki 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday at the Australian Open.

McIlroy got up at 3 a.m. to watch from Abu Dhabi, where he’s preparing to play in this weekend’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships. He was coming off a busy day himself after the announcement of his lucrative multi-year contract with Nike.

Of course, the multimillion dollar golf contract became a topic of conversation.

“It wasn’t really a big surprise to me. I kind of knew,” she said to laughter in the interview room. “I felt bad for him because I think he went to bed at midnight their time and woke up at 3 and watched me and then back to sleep for a couple of hours. That’s a true fan.”

And perhaps it was just the win Wozniacki needed to battle her way back into the upper tier of women’s tennis.

“Today, I had to get my fighting spirit up and fight back,” she said, “and it paid off.”

Wozniacki had been on a serious slide after losing the No. 1 ranking she had held for two years with a loss in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park last January. She lost in the third round at the French Open and then the first round at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, briefly falling out of the top 10 before finishing the year at No. 10.

But Wozniacki was the far steadier player Tuesday, patiently moving Lisicki around the court and playing superb defense to extend rallies and wait for Lisicki to make an error. The German made a lot of those _ 57 to just eight for Wozniacki.

Lisicki was probably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw. Currently ranked 36th, the German was a 2011 Wimbledon semifinalist and reached the quarters at Wimbledon last year. She has been ranked as high as No. 12.

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IRON WOMAN: Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova isn’t used to sitting on the sidelines.

Kuznetsova, winner of the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open, saw her streak of 40 straight Grand Slam appearances broken late last year when a right knee injury forced her out of the U.S. Open. She had appeared in the main draw at every Grand Slam dating to the 2002 U.S. Open.

The Russian, who missed six months because of the injury, said after her first-round victory over Lourdes Dominguez Lino at the Australian Open that the extended break might have done her some good. She was feeling some burnout after playing for 12 straight years without taking any time off.

“It was new for me because I never stopped,” she said. “I never stopped for a long time. I played 40 slams, I never missed one.”

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