Serena Williams of the USA returns a shot during the women’s singles first round match against Laura Siegemund of Germany on Monday.

MELBOURNE, Feb 8: Serena Williams arrived ready to race at the Australian Open.

In a colourful one-legged catsuit which she said was inspired by former Olympic champion Florence Griffith Joyner, Williams shook off a wobbly start, opening with a double-fault and dropping her first service game to sweep 10 consecutive games and beat Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 on the first day of the tournament.

The victory marked the start of Williams’ latest bid for a record-tying 24th major title. As she left the court she flexed her biceps, and later she donned a T-shirt that read Unstoppable Queen.

She wasn’t the first Williams to reach the second round. Her sister, Venus, won a Grand Slam match for the first time since 2019.

Playing in her 21st Australian Open, the elder Williams beat Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2. At 40, Venus is the oldest woman in this year’s draw and just the sixth player in her 40s to compete at the Australian Open.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, who won the title in Melbourne two years ago, played the opening match in Rod Laver Arena and beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2.

The first tournament of this year’s Grand Slam season began after a three-week delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, made a successful return from a 15-month injury absence, serving herself out of a tough spot in the third set to beat Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Another Canadian on the comeback trail, Rebecca Marino, a former top-40 player  competing in a Grand Slam event for the first time in eight years, beat wild-card entry Kimberly Birrell 6-0, 7-6 (9). Marino was sidelined by depression and a serious foot injury.

No. 23 Angelique Kerber, a three-time major champion and 2016 Australian Open winner, lost to American Bernarda Pera 6-0, 6-4.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem was a break down and saved set points before beating veteran Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-3 in his first match at the tournament since losing last year’s final to top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

No. 6 Alexander Zverev lost the first set in a tiebreaker, after saving four set points, then lost his temper in the second and belted his racket into the court. Letting off a little steam worked for the US Open finalist, who recovered to beat No. 73-ranked Marcos Giron 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2.

Also advancing were No. 14 Milos Raonic, the first man to finish the first round, former champion Stan Wawrinka and Americans Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz.

No. 10-seeded Gael Monfils lost a marathon against Emil Ruusuvuori 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 and his fellow Frenchman, No. 25 Benoit Paire, also was beaten in the first round.

On Monday, Novak Djokovic also got back to doing what he does best when he steamrollered Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-1 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in the opening round.

Though up to 30,000 fans which is about 50 per cent of capacity are allowed on the tournament, seats were mostly empty for the early matches.

The usually packed walkways between courts also were relatively devoid of fans. – AP