Former world number one Serena Williams made a successful return to Australia on Monday, beating South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers 6-2 6-3 in the first round of the Brisbane International.
The 30-year Williams, who last played Down Under when she won the Australian Open title in 2010, was not able to defend the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup last January due to injury.
She was also returning after a lengthy layoff following a sensational tirade against the chair umpire in the U.S. Open final last September.
Williams was censured and fined $2,000 for her outburst in the final, which she lost to Australia’s Sam Stosur, said prior to the Brisbane tournament she would not dial down her intensity.
That passion, which has led to 13 grand slam titles, was needed at certain crucial points on Monday as the fourth seed overpowered a determined Scheepers to set up a second round clash with Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski.
Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic set up a second-round clash with Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters after she easily accounted for Austria’s Tamira Paszek 6-3 6-3 in just under 80 minutes.
“There were some nerves involved, particularly early on but I felt I played well,” Ivanovic told reporters. “Obviously there is still some room for improvement but it was the first match and I’m happy.”
Ivanovic has played Clijsters four times, losing all four matches, but the Belgian is coming back from an abdominal injury and has only played once, her first round victory over Romania’s Simona Halep on Sunday, since last August.
“It’s a tough match, no doubt, at least it’s in the second round and not the first round,” Ivanovic said.
“I just need to go out there and test myself and push and see how far (away) I am from the top players.
“It will be a battle and I just want to try and apply things that I have worked on and see how that plays.”
Top seed Stosur will play later on Monday against Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus while in the men’s tournament, former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus faces American teenager Ryan Harrison in the late match.