Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

By John PYE, AP Sports Author

Melbourne, Australia (AP) – Serena Williams gets ready to race at the Australian Open.

In a colorful one-legged catsuit that she said was inspired by former Olympic champion Florence Griffith Joyner, Williams started with a shock – starting with a double-fault and drawing her first service game – to sweep 10 consecutive games. And defeated Laura Sigmund 6- 1, 6-1 on the first day of the tournament.

The win marked Williams’ latest bid opening record 24th big title. She flexed her biceps when she got out of court and later donated a T-shirt she read “Unstoppable Queen”.

“Vintage ‘Rain,” she said, describing her opening match and showing no signs of a right shoulder issue that led to her semi-final exit of a tuneup tournament last week.

Pace was one of the top women, with No. 2 seed Simona Halep and No. 3 Naomi Osaka, each dropping just three games in the first round.

US Open champion Osaka, who won the title in Melbourne two years ago, defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6–1, 6–2 in the opening match over Rod Laver Arena. Two-time major winner Halep finished runners-up here in 2018, winning the night session 6–2, 6–1 on the main show court and winning over Australian wild-card entry Lizette Cabrera.

Williams’ motivation was evident when he made his match debut.

Griffith Joyner was a sprinting and fashion icon in the 1980s, setting a world record that still stands for women’s 100- and 200-meter sprints. She died in 1998, the same year Serena Williams won her first Australian Open.

“Yes, I was inspired by Flo Joe, who was an amazing track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up,” Williams said. “Well, looking at her fashion, always changing, her clothes were always amazing.

“This year we thought about what we could do to keep Serena Williams elevated in court.”

She was not the first Williams to reach the second round, however. His sister Venus won a Grand Slam match for the first time since 2019.

Playing at his 21st Australian Open, the elder Williams defeated Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2. At the age of 40, Venus is the oldest woman in this year’s draw and just the sixth player in her 40s to compete at the Australian Open.

“I like my job,” he said. “No matter what happens to you in life, you always keep your head high and give 100 million percent. And that’s what I do every single day, and it’s something I can be proud of. “

The first tournament of this year’s Grand Slam season began after a three-week delay due to the coronavirus virus epidemic.

Osaka said, “Physically I feel like everyone else, their body jerks, coming and playing suddenly after such a long break.” “I think we’re all getting used to it and everyone is happy to be here.”

Which includes the Williams sisters.

“Listen, it’s amazing,” Serena said. “Last year was very scary for the world. To be able to do what I love and to be able to come out and compete.. It makes me appreciate that moment even more.”

For the past four years, Serena Williams has been trying to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles since capturing the Australian title in 2017.

“I have a ton of pressure, and now I don’t feel it,” she told ESPN after her first-round win. “It’s like a big relief. I think I was looking at it all the wrong way in the past, and I feel completely different about it. “

The two Canadians also hold a different approach to the game.

The 2019 US Open champion, Bianca Andreescu, made a successful comeback from a 15-month injury absence, beating Mihaila Buzarescu 6–2, 4–6, 6–3 to keep herself out of trouble in the third set.

Rebecca Marino, an ex-40 player who competed in a Grand Slam competition for the first time in eight years, defeated wild card entry Kimberly Birrell 6–0, 7–6 (9). Marino was sidelined by depression and a serious leg injury.

In the afternoon upset, No. 23 Angelique Curber, a three-time major champion and 2016 Australian Open winner, lost to American Bernarda Pera 6–0, 6–4.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem had a break down and saved points in his first match at the tournament before defeating veteran Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-3 from Novo Djokovic in last year’s final. It was his first match in the tournament since losing. .

No. 6 Alexander Zverev lost the first set in a tiebreaker, after saving four set points, then losing his temper in the second and taking his racket to court. Worked a bit of steam for the US Open finalists, beating No. 73-ranked Marcos Giron 6–7 (8), 7–6 (4), 6–3, 6–2.

Also in advance was No. 14 Milos Raonic, who was the first to conclude the first round, former champions Stan Wawrinka and Americans Reilly Opelka, Francis Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz.

No. 10 seeded Gayle Monfils lost the marathon against Emil Rusuwori 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 and his fellow Frenchman, No. 25 Benoit Paire, in the first round as well. Was defeated in .

Up to 30,000 fans – about 50% of capacity – would be allowed at the tournament venue, but seats for the opening matches were mostly empty.

The usually paved walkways between the courts were also relatively devoid of fans. Sanitizer stations had replaced fans with huge mist that used to keep fans cool on the field – not that they needed a cloudy, light day.

AP Sports Writer Steven Vine contributed from Miami, Florida.

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