Serena dispels doubts in successful return

Mon Jan 18, 2016 1:14am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Defending champion Serena Williams dispelled any doubts about her fitness and form after a four-month break from the game with a tense 6-4 7-5 win over feisty Italian Camila Giorgi to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Monday.

The world number one had barely swung a racquet in anger since her U.S. Open exit last September and entered a sweltering Rod Laver Arena to face the highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw amid speculation about the condition of her left knee.

Williams pulled out of her first match at the Hopman Cup in Perth earlier this month due to knee inflammation but the 34-year-old moved freely during a testing opener against Giorgi and said it gave her no problems.

"(The knee is) great. It was an hour and 43 minutes and I didn't feel it at all," Williams told reporters.

"I think I served well today. I think ... I got broken once, but other than that I was able to stay focused on that part."

Showing none of the lethargy that has sometimes dogged her in early grand slam matches, a calm and focused Williams roared to a 4-1 lead as the temperature soared over 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit).

But 36th-ranked Giorgi, a slightly built player packing a meaty forehand, steadied herself to drag Williams into a baseline battle and the American's screams of frustration underlined the growing tension as the match progressed.

Though a match for Williams in terms of court speed and fire-power, Giorgi landed barely a third of her first serves and gave up the decisive break at 5-5 in the second set with her 12th double-fault.   Continued...

Serena Williams of the U.S. reaches for a shot during her first round match against Italy's Camila Giorgi at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed