History-chasing Serena Williams has wasted no time finding her groove, dispatching Australian Daria Gavrilova in straight sets in her 2021 season opener at the Yarra Valley Classic.
Playing her first match in more than four months, Williams hit the ground running in a 6-1 6-4 second-round victory at the Australian Open warm-up event on Monday.
Hoping to match Margaret Court’s record 24 grand slam singles titles at this month’s rescheduled Open, the 39-year-old was delighted to be back on Melbourne Park’s arena named in Court’s honour.
“It feels good to be back here. It feels different to be playing here but not playing in the Australian Open yet,” Williams said of the unusual build-up to the season’s first major.
Six tournaments are running concurrently to allow the world’s elite tennis stars to gain some priceless court time following two weeks in quarantine
“It’s still good because all of us players need to get out here and get to play and get some matches,” Williams said after her hour-long workout in which she served two aces and broke Gavrilova three times.
“I felt that I was definitely composed and in the zone and I was just trying to do the things that I’ve been working on so it was good.”
Williams, who hasn’t won a slam since beating sister Venus in the 2017 Australian Open final while pregnant with her daughter Olympia, next plays Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironokova for a quarter-final spot.
Olympia was in the stands on Monday, along with Williams’ husband Alexis and coach Patrick Mouratoglou, as the former world No.1 continues her obsessive pursuit of Court’s record at a time most players are long retired.
Williams has lost four straight grand slam finals since collecting her 23rd major title.
Turning 40 in September, the American will become the oldest women’s grand slam singles winner if she manages to get the job done for an eighth time in Melbourne.