Auckland: Serena Williams mixed flashes of form and occasional bouts of frustration as she ended four months on the sidelines with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Pauline Parmentier on Tuesday in the first round of the ASB Classic.
Top-seeded Williams had to wait an extra day to make her first appearance of 2017 because rain forced the postponement of her first-round match on Monday.
It was wind rather than rain that troubled Williams on Tuesday as a swirling breeze on the open-air center court at the Auckland Tennis Center made it difficult to serve.
She took 74 minutes to beat No 69-ranked Parmentier, serving eight aces — including one on match point — but also prolonging the match with a series of unforced errors, including four double-faults.
"This wind was getting to me," Williams said. "It's like every day I've practiced here there's been no wind and today I play and it's real windy, so it was fun. It wasn't fun, actually, it was interesting."
Williams made a shaky start, dropping serve in an opening game before Parmentier held her own serve to love. But she seemed to find some form and confidence in the third game which included a booming winner from a crosscourt forehand.
Williams broke Parmentier's serve in the sixth and eighth games and held comfortably, serving out the set in only 29 minutes.
There were signs of frustration from Williams as the wind picked up and she struggled to put her first serve in play. When she did, she won 80 percent of first serve points.
She also found herself out of position to play convincing groundstrokes as the wind carried the ball away from her racket. Williams' backhand especially suffered, though she looked to move around the court freely.
She broke Parmentier in the third game of the second set, then immediately lost her own serve. Williams struggled to hold serve in the sixth game, saving three breakpoints, but she signaled her intention to finish it off quickly with two powerful winners which allowed her to break again in the seventh game.
The third and fourth seeds, Caroline Wozniacki and Barbora Strycova, both cruised through their opening matches, with Wozniacki beating American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-2 and Strycova a 6-4, 6-3 winner over fellow Croatian Barbora Stefkova.
However, the rain again affected evening play with second seed Venus Williams also making a slow start as she was 2-2 in the first set against New Zealander Jade Lewis when play was stopped for the day.
Fifth seed Kiki Bertens had reason to bemoan the unseasonal weather. She was 5-3 up against American Lauren Davis when play was abandoned on Monday, but could not find the same rhythm when play resumed and she lost 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Published Date: Jan 03, 2017 10:18 AM | Updated Date: Jan 03, 2017 20:19 PM