Two former World No.1s enjoyed straightforward passage through to the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic on Monday as No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova and No.5 seed Serena Williams each secured straight-set victories in their tournament debuts.
First through between the pair was Pliskova, who struck seven aces and 30 winners in total to dispatch 20-year-old Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto, 6-3, 6-2. Over the course of the one hour, 17-minute affair, Pliskova earned a whopping 18 break point chances, converting on five of them.
"I feel like I need some matches so I'm definitely happy that I'm through to the next round," the Czech said after the match. "I felt like I did a good job in the second set especially... and as the match went on, I felt I was playing better and better. I just need to find the rhythm again of playing tournaments and I thought it was a good start.
"Overall, I want to move better, but everything comes with a better feeling when you trust yourself a little more. Without too many matches, you're thinking maybe a little bit too much, but I think I did a good job today. I just want to build on that and keep improving."
Up next for Pliskova is a match against No.13 seed and former Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, who eased to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Serbia's Nina Stojanovic.
"We've never played, and there aren't many players like this for me except the young ones," Pliskova said. "It's going to be an interesting match and I'm looking forward to it. She's playing well here always every year, so it's going to be a nice match."
On Margaret Court Arena, Williams extended her dominance against former Top 20 player Daria Gavrilova in an hour and 34 minutes thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 victory - extending her career head-to-head against the Aussie to 4-0 without the loss of a set.
After saving four break points in the opening game of the match, Williams largely had it all her own way against the 26-year-old, who competed hard in an effort that might not have been completely reflected on the scoreboard.
"It was a good match for me. It wasn't easy at all. It was lots of rallies and lots of movement, and she's from here, so she obviously always plays hard," the American added in her post-match press conference. "So it was really good and it felt good to clinch that in the end."
Highlights: Serena struck 27 winners to 15 unforced errors, with 16 of those winners coming in the opening set.
Seeds Pavlyuchenkova, Podoroska cruise in tournament debuts, Pironkova vexes Vekic again
There was little trouble on offer for the No.11 and No.14 seeds in their tournament debuts, as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Nadia Podoroska combined to lose just nine games in their first round matches.
The Russian, noted lover of the courts at Melbourne Park as a three-time quarterfinalist at the Australian Open, raced out of the gates against the Japanese No.3 in their third career meeting, winning eight of the first nine games in just over 30 minutes played.
Though Doi put up some late resistance in the second set - she got back even from a 4-2 deficit - she proved unable to push ahead.
The left-hander dropped serve for a fourth time in the penultimate game and was unable to convert either of two break point chances to extend the match, securing the Russian her 350th WTA victory.
February 1, 2021
Later in the afternoon, 2020 WTA Newcomer of the Year Podoroska scored her first win of the new season in just under an hour and a half over World No.244 Francesca Jones of Great Britain, 6-1, 6-3.
Jones has drawn interest from media and fans both in her home country and abroad after winning three qualifying matches in Dubai to assure her Grand Slam main draw debut later this month.
The 20-year-old was born with a rare genetic condition called Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia (EED), and has a thumb and three fingers on each hand and seven toes.
In a match that was closer than the scoreline suggested, Podoroska largely had all the answers in the face of pressure from Jones. In the penultimate game of the match, however, the Brit battled to hold in an 18-point, six deuce service game in which she saved four match points, and only succumbed to defeat after breaking serve for the first time.
Primer pasoooo! 💪🏼— Nadia Podoroska (@nadiapodoroska) February 1, 2021
Vamos el team! 🙌🏼
One seeded player who was not as fortunate on Monday was No.9 Donna Vekic, who was beaten by Tsetvetana Pironkova for the second time in four events since the Bulgarian returned to tennis last summer.
After earning a 6-4, 6-1 win in the third round in Flushing Meadows, Pironkova rallied for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over the No.9 seed to advance through to the third round.
The Bulgarian, who spent more than three years away from the sport while raising a son, will next face Williams once more in her second act: while the former World No.31 lost a three-set quarterfinal to the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion in New York, she was the beneficiary of a second-round walkover at the French Open at the end of September.
Photo of the Day: Even with limited numbers of fans allowed on site this week, this fan made her support for Pironkova well-known.
Stat Check: Kenin goes for eight straight at Melbourne Park vs. Giorgi
Former Top 30 player Camila Giorgi will be the first opponent for No.2 seed and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the latter's return to Melbourne Park.
The 29-year-old Italian, now ranked World No.76, beat French teenager Clara Burel in early action on Monday, 6-4, 6-3, to secure just her second win since last summer's US Open.
Despite serving eight double faults and losing serve three times, prowess on return and five breaks against Burel proved more than enough for the Italian to move safely through the opening round encounter.
Kenin and Giorgi have never played, but the World No.4 will bid for an eighth consecutive victory on Australian soil when they take the court on Tuesday.