courtesy of RTE
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.
The Canadian, who soared into the top 10 in 2014, dropped as low as 193 in the rankings last season but has worked her way back into double figures and a 6-2 6-1 victory over Peng Shuai earned her a shot at the title favourite.
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.”
Johanna Konta survived a deciding tie-break to defeat Ajla Tomljanovic and become the third British player to reach the second round of the Australian Open.
Konta lost to Tomljanovic in Brisbane earlier this month but produced a fine performance to come through 7-6 (7/4) 2-6 7-6 (10/7).
There was little to separate the pair throughout a tight and big-hitting contest but Konta was rewarded for her aggression in the first-to-10-points tie-break, becoming the second British player after Katie Boulter to win using the new scoring format.