Maria Sharapova ground out a 6-4 6-3 victory over Jelena Kostanic Tosic to set up an enticing clash with Lindsay Davenport at the Australian Open.
Sharapova is hoping to go one further after reaching the 2007 final
Former world number one Davenport, who returned to the tour late last year after having a baby, saw off Italy's Sara Errani 6-2 3-6 7-5.
Serena Williams opened the defence of her title with a 6-3 6-3 win over wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3 6-3.
Top seed and title favourite Justine Henin beat Aiko Nakamura 6-2 6-2.
But third seed Jelena Jankovic had to dig deep to see off Tamira Paszek 2-6 6-2 12-10 in an epic first-round match on the opening day of action.
In a match featuring 15 breaks of serve, Jankovic needed three hours to beat her teenage Austrian opponent, saving three match points as she came back from 4-1 down in the deciding set.
It was unbelievable when I was down those match points and I was really in some tough points and I was maybe lucky a few times
Davenport's hard-fought win saw her become the biggest prize money-winner in women's sport with £11.17m, surpassing Steffi Graf's 20-year record.
The 31-year-old, who triumphed in Melbourne in 2000, has won 19 of her 20 matches since returning to the tour.
"It was definitely the most challenging match I've had since coming back," Davenport said, adding that her preparation was far from ideal after being woken up at 5am by her crying baby, Jagger.
Jankovic's day had also begun badly when her driver took her to Albert Park - the venue for the practice courts - rather than Melbourne Park.
It looked like getting worse when Paszek, a 17-year-old from Austria, took command of the deciding set but Jankovic battled back to triumph despite needing painkillers to get through the match.
"I was just trying to stay positive somehow and I found a way to win," Jankovic said.
"It was unbelievable when I was down those match points and I was really in some tough points and I was maybe lucky a few times. But a win is a win."
Williams looked in good shape as she opened the defence of her title
Williams, looking in great shape after an injury-hit 2007, was often too powerful for Australian Gajdosova but did not have things all her own way.
"I am feeling good but most of all I am having a lot of fun and enjoying myself," Williams said.
"The courts feel different - they are a different colour too, but I like the TrueBlue - it's cool."
Henin, meanwhile, had to overcome a gritty display from Nakamura but was in solid form to secure her 29th successive victory.
Other seeded women to advance included Russian number 11 seed Elena Dementieva, 13th seeded Tatiana Golovin of France, Israel's number 17 seed Shahar Peer and number 26 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Dementieva beat Israel's Tzipora Obziler 6-2 3-6, while Golovin eventually overcame compatriot Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-1 4-6 6-3.
Peer also needed three sets to beat Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic 6-1 4-6 6-3 and Azarenka saw off Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova 6-2 7-5.
Eighteenth seed Amelie Mauresmo beat Tatiana Poutchek 6-7 (8-6) 6-0 6-0 and 15th seed Patty Schyder beat Lilia Osterloh 6-3 6-3.