New Zealand Tennis ASB Classic Serena
Serena Williams believes she's laid an early foundation for an historic assault on the Australian Open with a straight sets win in first match of 2020.
Williams shook off some early rust and Auckland's wind to beat Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-3 6-2 at Auckland's ASB Classic on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old is using the New Zealand tournament to prepare for the Melbourne grand slam, where she can claim a 24th major title.
It would lift her level with Margaret Court for most grand slams by a woman.
Top seed Williams' power eventually told, closing with her eighth ace to seal victory in her first match since losing the US Open final four months ago.
While her ground strokes were erratic early on, Williams' serving was vastly superior to her 99th-ranked opponent, who dictated some rallies with her own power game but never came to grips with the conditions.
Williams said she notoriously struggles in her first matches after a break, so was pleased to find her range as the match wore on.
"I thought it was solid. I've had a long time off of tournament play and match play so I thought I did pretty good. It's a great start to build on," she said.
"She got a lot of balls back but that's okay, I was happy. You have to be able to beat people who get balls back."
World No.10 Williams moved well, although appeared to suffer a minor right ankle injury which prompted her to apply tape there early in the second set.
Williams said playing a doubles match the previous evening with Caroline Wozniacki gave her an advantage against the Italian, who pushed her close at Wimbledon last year.
"I've always had really tough matches against Giorgi. The doubles really helped because got to come out here and play a little bit in these conditions and get used to them," she told Sky Sport NZ.
"It's really good to know that I still have some power left in my arm and my legs and everything. It felt really good."
Her next opponent will be compatriot Christina Mchale, ranked 86th.
Day two of the tournament was free of any upsets.
Second seed Petra Martic of Croatia had to work hard to beat Usue Maitane Arconada 5-7 6-4 6-4, while third-seeded American Amanda Anisimova saw off Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova in straight sets.
Danish great Wozniacki, seeded fifth, dropped just 14 points in dispatching Kiwi Paige Hourigan.
Fourth-seeded German and two-time defending champion Julia Goerges also won in straight sets, beating German Greet Minnen.