Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka launched their Australian Open campaign in style on Monday while former champion Angelique Kerber was knocked out in the first round by Bernarda Pera and Bianca Andreescu returned after 15 months away as the delayed Grand Slam finally got under way.
World No 3 Osaka scored an an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 68 minutes while an aggressive Serena Williams started her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title by thrashing Laura Siegemund. Venus Williams also got past the first-round hurdle, beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2.
The 39-year-old Serena, playing an unparallelled 100th match at the tournament, looked sharp and smashed 16 winners in the 6-1, 6-1 romp in 56 minutes. “This was a good start, it was vintage Serena,” she said.
Williams, wearing a striking multi-coloured, one-legged catsuit, was broken in the opening game but hit back immediately and kept her foot on the pedal in a one-sided contest.
She showed no ill-effects of a shoulder injury that ruled her out of the semi-finals of the warm-up Yarra Valley Classic. Williams has also been battling a lingering Achilles injury first sustained at last year’s US Open, but has been in strong form so far in Melbourne.
The American, seeded 10th in her 20th Australian Open will play Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic in the second round.
Former US Open champion Andreescu burst into tears after a tough three-set victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu marked a much-anticipated return from a year-plus injury.
Japanese star Osaka faced a potentially tricky first-round contest against the world number 39.
The 23-year-old, seeded three in Melbourne Park, looked physically strong having withdrawn from the warm-up Gippsland Trophy in the semi-finals, blaming a long-standing shoulder problem.
Osaka, whose flashy attire included leggings and pink shoes, skirt and wristbands, won the first four games and continued the momentum as she relentlessly worked Pavlyuchenkova around the court with powerful groundstrokes.
The three-time Grand Slam winner stretched her streak to 15 matches unbeaten – including the US Open final – dating back 12 months.
Osaka, who won the 2019 Australian Open, plays former top 10 player Caroline Garcia of France or Slovenia’s Polona Hercog in the second round.
However, three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber crashed out with a heavy 6-0, 6-4 defeat to Bernarda Pera, in the first upset of the tournament.
Pera plays Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the second round.