Thursday 27 June 2019

'The last time I was here I was pregnant and playing, which is insane' - Serena Williams makes impressive start in Melbourne

Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during the match against Germany’s Tatjana Maria. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during the match against Germany’s Tatjana Maria. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Newsdesk

Serena Williams made an emphatic return to competitive tennis at the Australian Open.

The American's clash with fellow mother Tatjana Maria was her first outside of exhibition events since the tumultuous US Open final last September.

But, while the events of that day still generate plenty of interest, Williams is focused firmly on trying to secure that elusive 24th grand slam singles title.

This was certainly a great start, with the 37-year-old, dressed in a striking green playsuit, taking just 49 minutes to come through 6-0 6-2. German Maria won only five points in an 18-minute first set but made a better fight of it in the second.

The result extended Williams' winning streak in Melbourne to eight matches following her title in 2017, and she said: "I think the last time I was here I was pregnant and playing, which is insane, so it's kind of weird walking back on - by myself this time.

"I have so many wonderful memories from the last time I was here, it was literally the best match of my career."

Williams has kept a low profile since the defeat by Osaka and was in no mood to revisit the occasion.

Asked if she had discussed coaching signals with Patrick Mouratoglou after the warning from umpire Carlos Ramos that sparked the whole furore and whether she agreed with the Frenchman that on-court coaching should be allowed, Williams said: "I literally have no comment."

She next faces an intriguing match against Eugenie Bouchard, who is climbing back up the rankings after two years in the doldrums.

Williams said: "It will be a great match. She plays really well. She does everything well, and I really like that she doesn't quit. People write her off, and she doesn't let that bother her. She continues to fight and do what she needs to do."

Venus Williams recovered from a set and a break down to defeat 25th seed Mihaela Buzarnescu.

The Romanian, who surged up the rankings last season, took the opening set on a tie-break and then served for the match at 5-3.

However, Williams showed that, at the age of 38, she has lost none of her competitive desire by storming back to win 6-7 (3) 7-6 (3) 6-2.

Williams said: "It was pretty hairy there. I hope that this tough match will prepare me for the rest of the tournament."

World number one Simona Halep gained revenge on Kaia Kanepi in a compelling three-set battle on Margaret Court Arena.

Halep lost to Kanepi in the first round of the US Open last August then remarkably drew the powerful Estonian again here.

It looked like a repeat upset was on the cards when Kanepi took the opening set on a tie-break, but Halep converted her fourth set point in the 10th game of the second and went on to win 6-7 (2) 6-4 6-2.

The victory ended a five-match losing streak for the top seed, who was troubled by a back problem at the end of last season.

The Romanian, the runner-up 12 months ago, said: "I don't want to remember about that match (in New York) because it was a tough one. I knew she's a very tough opponent. It was good for me tonight and I'm really happy I can play the second round."

Fourth seed Osaka began her campaign in confident fashion with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Magda Linette.

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