BRISBANE, Australia - It has been a rough several months for Jarmila Gajdosova but the Australian was in vintage form on Day 1 of the Premier-level Brisbane International on Sunday afternoon, beating Roberta Vinci for her first match win since the French Open all of seven months ago.
In fact, Gajdosova wasn't just on a nine-match losing streak since that first round win at Roland Garros, she hadn't even played since mid-September, all of the troubles a combination of on-court and off-court struggles. A former No.25, she is now No.183 - but with some vintage hard-hitting from the baseline and some strong will after a tricky first set, Gajdosova battled past Vinci in three sets, 46 61 63.
"The first game I was a bit nervous - I hadn't played since September and hadn't had any match practice under my belt," Gajdosova said. "Also, Roberta's a tricky player for the first round because she has a very good slice, she doesn't give you any rhythm, and you have to be really careful what you do.
"In the second and third sets I started returning better and put more pressure on her service games, so she started giving me a few second serves. It's nice to finish 2012 on a winning note, especially beating someone like Roberta - she's No.16 in the world and No.1 in doubles, so she's obviously playing well."
Gajdosova was emotional after the win, and rightfully so, given her recent circumstances.
"It's been tough," she explained. "As you all know, my mom passed away in September. It's been a difficult time. It was the first Christmas without her, as well. My dad is here, my brother and his wife and son were watching as well; I guess first match in front of them and first match in Australia after such a long time and without my mom... it was a bit difficult, but it's always good to win at least one."
Among those joining Gajdosova in the second round were two seeded players, namely No.3 seed Serena Williams and No.6 seed Petra Kvitova. Kvitova was the first of the pair to advance, overpowering Carla Suárez Navarro, 63 64, a bit of revenge for a straight set loss in Beijing two months ago.
"I think I did everything pretty solid today, but I still have some space in every part of my game I can improve," Kvitova said. "For example I missed some easy volleys at the net on important points. The serve could be better, too - everything. Of course at the beginning of the year I never know what to expect from myself. First rounds are always really tough for me, so I'm really glad I won in two sets."
Williams followed later with a 59-minute, 62 61 win over fellow American Varvara Lepchenko - the 15-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1 has now won 49 of her last 51 matches.
"We're still in 2012 - tomorrow is the last day of the year, so technically I still had my 2012 rep on the line," Williams said. "I needed to win today so I could finish the year with still just the four losses."
Williams was asked how well she thinks she can do in 2013. "If I have a year like I had last year - or 2012, I should say - it would be exciting. I'd like to do better at Roland Garros and the Australian Open."
And does she believe she can win all four Grand Slams?
"Absolutely," Williams said. "I think whoever wins the Australian Open will have that same thought. There's no way that Victoria or Maria, or maybe some other players, don't feel the same way."
Urszula Radwanska, Daniela Hantuchova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also won first round matches, while Ksenia Pervak, Olga Puchkova, Monica Puig and Bojana Bobusic secured spots in the main draw with wins in the final round of qualifying. The first round wraps up with eight more matches on Monday.