AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki began their doubles campaign in winning style at the ASB Classic 2020, overcoming Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya, 6-2, 6-4 in an entertaining affair.
Both pairings were playing together for the first time on the WTA Tour, with the Dane, who will retire following the conclusion of the Australian Open, featuring in her first doubles encounter since New Haven in 2016.
Nevertheless, alongside her close friend, she turned in a winning display – her first in doubles on Tour since Copenhagen in 2011.
“It’s amazing to be able to share the court with Serena. Every time I missed, she was like: ‘You did a great job!’ I’m hard on myself so I was like: ‘I need to play with you all the time!’” Wozniacki admitted.
“For me at the beginning, I was really just trying to work out where I was supposed to be standing. I just listened for Serena to tell me what to do and I did it. She was a great leader and I was just trying to follow her.
“This is probably the most fun I’ve had. I wish we had done it sooner!”
The Wiliams-Wozniacki partnership got off to an ideal start as they broke in the opening game and then added to that advantage as the American’s powerful serving proved too much for their opponents to handle.
Indeed, a 4-0 advantage was opened up with relatively little resistance, though a brief wavering in concentration allowed their Japanese rivals to get on the board.
Serena’s serve was then broken as she twice went long, but the 23-time singles Grand Slam champion made amends with a thumping winner as the wobble was ended.
There would be no further breaks in the set, which was sealed at the fourth attempt by Serena and Wozniacki. Having been led 40-0, Hibino and Ninomiya clawed back the deficit only to be aced by a second serve from Wozniacki, who finally bagged the opener.
With the advantage, the leading pair, who had been laughing and joking with each other throughout, relaxed further and the standard of the play went up a level.
The outstanding period of the match came in the second game of the second set. A thrilling rally was concluded by a fierce Serena smash before a point later Hibino showed great hands at the net to fend off a powerful strike from the same player and secure a volley winner.
The opening two games of the set went on serve but the Hibino-Ninomiya combination fell behind when the former hit a costly double fault on the decisive point in the third game.
Although there would be no further loss of serve, two break points for the Japanese pair did manifest themselves. Wozniacki was the first to save one on her serve, while the final game on the Serena delivery went all the way to a decisive point at deuce. A volley from the Dane sealed the match as it proved too hot for Ninomiya to handle.
“We were there to win. When she said: ‘Come on!’ you could tell in her eyes that she was really there to win,” Serena said.
“I had a blast. It’s so good to play with her. It’s a dream come true.”
Victory, of course, means that they will step on court together at least once more.
No.1 seeds Caroline Dolehide and Johanna Larsson could wait in round two, but they will first have to negotiate their opening encounter against Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani on Tuesday.