Refreshed and revitalized following a recent break from the tour, Serena Williams made a bright start to her title defense, brushing aside the highly rated teenager Belinda Bencic in under an hour. This was her 24th straight win on European clay and set up a first meeting since 2009 with doubles No.1 Peng Shuai.
The Turning Point
From the outset, Williams looked focused and wasted little time stamping her authority on the match, winning eight of the first nine points to move an early break ahead. The American was as ruthless as ever on serve, and closed a dominant opening set with another break when a Peng forehand flew long.
Peng briefly threatened to make a contest of it at the start of the second, even manufacturing a couple of break points, but that door was soon slammed shut and after just over an hour on court Williams wrapped up a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
By The Numbers
Even by her high standards, the Williams serve was an impressive sight out on Manolo Santana. In the first set, Peng only managed to win one point in her four return games and by the end of the match the top seed, who was getting 69% of her first deliveries in, had fired down 11 aces.
Spanish No.1 Carla Suárez Navarro is the next player faced with the challenge of derailing the Williams juggernaut. Ominously, Suárez Navarro has won just five games in three previous meetings with Williams, who triumphed, 6-0, 6-0, when they met at last year's US Open.