Melbourne - Serena
Williams denied on Tuesday her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam
title was a distraction as her Australian Open campaign launched with a
straight sets mauling of Germany's Tatjana Maria.
In an ominous warning to her rivals at Melbourne Park, the American
dismantled Maria 6-0, 6-2 in only 49 minutes, justifying her status as
bookies' favourite to claim an eighth Australian title.
The 37-year-old won her 23rd major Down Under two years ago while
eight weeks pregnant and is now attempting to match Margaret Court's
mark of 24 singles Slams on the Australian's home soil.
Williams said she was not dwelling on the bid for history, which would confirm her status as the greatest player of all time.
"I have been going for the record what seems like forever now, so it doesn't feel any different," she said.
Her 2017 triumph in Melbourne gave her the outright Open-era record
for singles majors ahead of Steffi Graf's 22, leaving only Court's tally
of 24 titles - 13 of which were earned in the amateur era before 1968 - for her to chase.
It was Williams' first outing on tour since her infamous meltdown at
the umpire while losing the US Open final to Naomi Osaka in September.
"I, like, literally have no comment," she responded when asked about the controversy, which split opinion in the tennis world.
She was unfailingly polite to the chair umpire at Melbourne Park and
the centre court crowd greeted her warmly, cheering as she walked out.
There was further applause when she removed her black warm-up jacket
to reveal her outfit for the tournament - a jade-green jumpsuit matched
with fishnet stockings.
"It's a Serena-tard," she said when asked to describe the garment.
Her demeanour was steely
but calm once play began and the American swatted aside her opponent
with ease, making a mockery of her 16th seeding at this year's
She won her first service game to love then effortlessly broke
Maria's serve, blasting winners seemingly at will as she claimed the
first set 6-0 in just 18 minutes.
She eased up slightly in the second set against someone she described
as "incredibly tricky", with Maria snatching two games before
succumbing to inevitable defeat.
It was small consolation for the German, a neighbour of Williams at
Palm Beach, Florida, who left the court in tears after the drubbing.
"I'm glad that I was able to come out and do what I needed to do...
I feel like I'm in the right direction. We'll see," she said.
The win sets up an enticing second-round clash with Canada's Eugenie Bouchard.
The former Wimbledon finalist is on the comeback trail after sliding
down the rankings and posted a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 win over China's
Peng Shuai in the opening round.
Williams has won her two previous meetings with Bouchard but was wary of the 24-year-old's fighting qualities.
"She does everything well, and I really like that she doesn't quit," she said.
"People write her off and she doesn't let that bother her. She
continues to fight and do what she needs to do. I think that's really
Results from Day 2 of the Australian Open on Tuesday:
Ryan Harrison (USA) bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-0, 7-5, 6-3
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x15) bt Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-1, 6-2, 6-1
Fabio Fognini (ITA x12) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7), 3-1 retired
Leonardo Mayer (ARG) bt Nicolas Jarry (CHI) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-3
Ilya Ivashka (BLR) bt Malek Jaziri (TUN) 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 4-0 retired
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) bt Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5)
Kei Nishikori (JPN x8) bt Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 3-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-0, 6-2, 3-0 retired
Alexander Zverev (GER x4) bt Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Alex Bolt (AUS) bt Jack Sock (USA) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Gilles Simon (FRA x29) bt Bjorn Fratangelo (USA) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-2
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-1
Borna Coric (CRO x11) bt Steve Darcis (BEL) 6-1, 6-4, 6-4
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Albert Ramos (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) bt Peng Shuai (CHN) 6-2, 6-1
Serena Williams (USA x16) bt Tatjana Maria (GER) 6-0, 6-2
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) bt Darya Kasatkina (RUS x10) 6-3, 6-0
Johanna Konta (GBR) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 7-6 (10/7)
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x18) bt Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-2, 6-3
Madison Brengle (USA) bt Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-4, 6-0
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x7) bt Karolina Muchova (CZE) 6-3, 6-2
Wang Qiang (CHN x21) bt Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4, 6-3
Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 3-6, 7-5, 6-1
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x13) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 6-3, 6-1
Elise Mertens (BEL x12) bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-2, 7-5
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) bt Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)
Madison Keys (USA x17) bt Destanee Aiava (AUS) 6-2, 6-2