MADRID, Spain - Having said she needed a break after losing her first match in Charleston - and saying she took that break at the WTA's All Access Hour a few days ago - Serena Williams looked completely refreshed and on her game in her first match at the Mutua Madrid Open, getting her title defense off to a flying start with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 win over WTA rising star Belinda Bencic.
The No.1-seeded Williams, who is actually the two-time defending champion here, looked like she was in for a tougher day after a tricky start, but from 3-2 she went on maximum overdrive - she won nine of the next 10 games and for a while was barely losing points, at one point reeling off 21 in a row.
Williams closed out the 58-minute victory with her 11th ace of the match, her 30th overall winner of the match - to just 14 unforced errors. She has now won 13 straight matches at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Williams has beaten Peng in both previous meetings, though they haven't played in over five years.
Three more Top 8 seeds were among those in action, namely No.5 seed Petra Kvitova, who served for it at 5-4 in the second set but ended up beating Sorana Cirstea, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(4), No.8 seed Maria Sharapova, who beat Klara Koukalova, 6-1, 6-2, and No.7 seed Angelique Kerber, who was trailing French qualifier Caroline Garcia, 6-3, 2-0, when she had to retire because of a back injury.
"I've been feeling my back for a few days now and felt it again in the first set, and it was getting worse as the match went on," Kerber said afterwards. "I'm disappointed I had to retire from the match.
"But I'd like to give all the credit to Caroline, who played an amazing match today. She was really playing some great tennis. I'm just looking forward to getting healthy now and getting back soon."
"I started very well in the match, which I think is a key against any player in the Top 10," Garcia said afterwards. "She was getting closer and coming back in the match a little bit, so I had to stay focused, and it's too bad the way it ended. I hope she'll get better soon, for the French Open, especially."
The other seeds in action had mixed results, with No.11 seed Ana Ivanovic edging Madison Keys, 6-1, 7-6(4), and No.16 seed Sloane Stephens rallying to beat Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, but Lucie Safarova pulling off a see-saw victory over No.12 seed Flavia Pennetta, 1-6, 6-0, 6-3.
Other winners were Roberta Vinci, Maria Kirilenko, Varvara Lepchenko, Zheng Jie, Francesca Schiavone and Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska. Schiavone had the most dramatic win of the day, originally leading Elena Vesnina 6-4, 5-3 and holding double match point later in the second set but eventually rallying from 3-0 down in the third to win in three hours and nine minutes, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4.