Serena shakes off cobwebs in Auckland
Serena Williams overcame rust and a troublesome wind to launch her comeback from a four-month lay-off with a 6-3 6-4 win over 69th-ranked Pauline Parmentier at the Auckland Classic yesterday.
In her first outing since she was shocked by Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semifinals in September, the world No2 made a sluggish start to a season in which she is seeking a record 23rd Grand Slam.
In her first-round match, delayed from Monday when rain washed out play, Williams struggled initially as France's Parmentier broke the American's first service game and then held to love.
The 35-year-old, using Auckland to warm up for the Australian Open, only had a 48% success rate with her first serve and double-faulted four times as she had trouble adjusting to the swirling wind.
But Williams - who shares the Open-era record of 22 Grand Slams with Steffi Graf, and is two behind Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 - grew steadily stronger and finished with her eighth ace.
"I definitely felt that rust, but mentally I knew how to get it back and get in there," Williams said.
"Unfortunately I have the highest of goals and obviously that involves winning Grand Slams and that's all," said Williams, who last week announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
"It's basically all I want to do, but you have to win tournaments like this, or do well in them, to win Grand Slams, so these events really do count."
Third and fourth seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Barbora Strycova both cruised through their opening matches, Wozniacki beating American Nicole Gibbs 6-1 6-2 and Strycova a 6-4 6-3 winner over fellow Croatian Barbora Stefkova.
Rain again affected evening play with second seed Venus Williams 2-2 in the first set against New Zealander Jade Lewis when play was stopped for the day.