MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.8 seed Serena Williams of the United States began her quest for a whopping 24th Grand Slam singles title with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday.
Williams, who has already lifted the singles trophy at the Australian Open seven times, needed just 58 minutes to defeat the former junior Wimbledon champion. Williams blasted 24 winners, including nine aces, to Potapova's 11, and the American claimed more than three-quarters of points off of the 18-year-old Russian's second serve.
"I felt like I started out really well," Williams said in her post-match press conference. "I played really strong in the first set, and just [built] on that.
"I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now."
Former World No.1 Williams continued her undefeated singles run in the 2020 season with her win over Potapova. The American superstar claimed the Auckland title one week ago, which was her first title of any type since she won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with her daughter Olympia.
"I think, so to say, monkey off my back, kind of," Williams said, regarding her Auckland title. "It was very important for me to get a win in the final. It felt like a relief. Yeah, like I could move forward now."
Williams started the match on a mission, using powerful, pinpoint returns to notch two quick breaks in succession and open up a 4-0 lead. By no means was returning her only weapon in the opening frame, though: the American held on for 5-0 at love, wrapping up that service game with one of her signature aces.
Potapova found a handful of great groundstrokes in the next game, but it was to no avail, as Williams broke the Russian one more time to obtain the bagel. Helped along by firing ten winners to just three unforced errors, Williams won 24 of the 33 points on offer in the opening frame, which she clinched after just 19 minutes.
The Russian regrouped and made the opening stages of the second set a true competition, getting on the board at 1-1, then clawing her way to deuce in the next game with a passing winner and a down-the-line strike. Potapova then grabbed the early break at 2-1 when Williams double faulted the game away.
Potapova continued to increase the depth on her shots, but it was not enough as Williams charged back to break the Russian again and level the set at 2-2. Potapova served well to hold on for 3-3, but Williams finally took control of the set by forcing an error with a beautiful backhand to earn another break and go up 5-3.
Powerful serving by the American swiftly propelled her to double match point, and on her first opportunity, Williams fired her ninth ace to close out the victory and claim her spot in Wednesday’s second round.
Williams now moves on to face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who eliminated South Korean wildcard Han Na-lae, 6-3, 6-3, in their first-round clash. It will be the first meeting between Williams and Zidansek.