Serena roars on return

Melbourne, February 1

Serena Williams showed no signs of rust as she began her season with a comfortable 6-1 6-4 win over Daria Gavrilova today to reach the Yarra Valley Classic Round of 16.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who is warming up for the Australian Open, was at her dominant best after a slow start in which she saved four break points in the opening game of the contest at Margaret Court Arena.

Former world No. 1 Williams has not played since withdrawing from last year’s French open second round in September with an Achilles injury, but made quick work of Gavrilova, striking 27 winners including 16 in the opening set. “It feels good to be back here,” the 39-year-old Williams, who is chasing a record-equalling 24th Major, said in an on-court interview. “I felt I was definitely composed and in a zone and trying to do the things I’ve been working on.”

Up next for Williams is Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

Another former world No. 1, Karolina Pliskova, also advanced to the next round in style, firing seven aces and 30 winners in her 6-3 6-2 victory over Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto. The 30-year-old Czech next meets former Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, who beat Nina Stojanovic 6-1 6-2. — Reuters

Gauff, Halep win

MELBOURNE: Coco Gauff was rusty on serve and struggled to produce her best tennis but the American prodigy prevailed 6-3 6-7(6) 7-6(5) over Swiss Jil Teichmann to reach the second round of the Gippsland Trophy today. Third seed Elina Svitolina eased into the last-16 with a 6-1 6-4 win over Andrea Petkovic. Top seed Simona Halep beat Anastasia Potapova 6-4 6-4. Reuters

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