January 20, 2015 / 9:29 AM / 4 years ago

Jittery Serena fends off plucky Belgian

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams was dragged into a second set scrap by unheralded Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck but put down the minor threat with some powerful serving to reach the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-0 6-4 win on Tuesday.

Serena Williams of the U.S. hits a return to Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium during their women's singles first round match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Having roared through the first set, Williams was on the back foot as the 106th-ranked 20-year-old went for broke, attacking the world number one’s serve and pushing her behind the baseline.

However, the American world number one held firm and pounced when her opponent served to stay in the match, sealing the win with a blistering crosscourt return off her backhand.

Despite amassing 18 grand slam titles in a professional career spanning almost 20 years, Williams said she had felt nerves before the opening match of every major campaign and her opener at Melbourne Park was no exception.

“As always, I had the jitters going out in the first match of a grand slam,” the 33-year-old told reporters.

“So, yeah, it’s never super easy to be the one that everyone wants to beat. So I always have to be a little bit above.

“Overall it stays the same. But I just am more open to talking about it. Before I was very quiet about it.

“But even today I told (coach) Patrick (Mouratoglou), ‘I’m a little nervous’. He’s like, ‘It’s okay. Just make sure you keep your feet moving’.”

Williams declared last year’s victorious U.S. Open final against Caroline Wozniacki her most nervous match “period” because she was focused on winning her 18th major title.

The win drew her level in the all-time list of grand slam title winners with a duo of greats in Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

A 19th would put Williams level with Helen Wills Moody and three behind Steffi Graf. Margaret Court holds the record with 24.

She next meets former world number two Vera Zvonareva, whose ranking has fallen out of the top 200 after struggling with injuries and playing only a handful of tournaments last season.

“It’s going to be tough,” Williams said.

“She’s on the way back. I know she’s been fighting and playing really hard ... I have to come out of the gates ready to go and be the best I can be.”

Editing by John O'Brien and Pritha Sarkar

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