Serena Williams restarted her lengthy quest for a 24th Grand Slam singles title with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Daria Gavrilova in an Australian Open tuneup tournament at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Williams has been stalled on 23 major singles titles since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was two months’ pregnant with now-three-year-old daughter Olympia and when she beat her sister Venus in the final.
A 24th singles major would equal Margaret Court’s Grand Slam total, but some of Court’s wins came before the professional era.
Williams clinched the match with a blistering forehand to the open court on her first match point.
“I was somewhat focused, in the zone, I guess,” Williams said in a post-match TV interview. “I am looking forward to the upcoming days.”
Earlier, Coco Gauff didn’t make it easy on herself. The 16-year-old American was up a service break in the second set and looked ready for straight-sets win until Jil Teichmann won the second-set tiebreaker. The players then went to a deciding-set tiebreaker before Gauff won 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5) at the WTA’s Gippsland Trophy.
“All the training I did in the off-season meant that I could go three tough sets,” Gauff said on court after the match.
In another match at the same tournament, Australian Destanee Aiava beat Chloe Paquet 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 after saving 14 of 15 break points.
SIX EVENTS ON BOARD
All six tuneup tournaments are being played this week at Melbourne Park ahead of the Feb. 8 start of the Australian Open.
The first major of the year was delayed by three weeks to allow for COVID-19 protocols which required all people arriving into Australia to spend 14 days in quarantine.
The biggest men’s tournament is the ATP Cup team event, which starts Tuesday. The other men’s tournaments are the Great Ocean Road Open and the Murray River Open.
In addition to Gippsland Trophy, the WTA has the Yarra Valley Classic and the Grampians Trophy. The Grampians event is a 28-draw tournament and open only to players who were forced into hard lockdown for 14 days without the benefit of practice because of positive COVID-19 cases on their charter flights to Australia.
RUSSIAN PLAYER ADVANCES
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beaten Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-1, 6-4 in a first-round match at the Yarra River Classic, the same tournament that includes Williams. The 11th-seeded Pavlyuchenkova has been a quarterfinalist in three of the last four years at the Australian Open.
In the second round, No. 13 Danielle Collins of the United States beat Nina Stojanovic 6-2, 6-1. Seventh-seeded Petra Martic had a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Vera Lapko.
TIAFOE OUT IN 1ST ROUND
Corentin Moutet of France won a tough first-round match over Frances Tiafoe, beating the American 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 at the Murray River Open. The 21-year-old Moutet had to overcome a sluggish start before he found his rhythm against 2019 Australian Open quarterfinalist Tiafoe. The Frenchman outlasted Tiafoe in the third set to fight off break points and take a 3-1 lead. “It was so nice to play a match,” Moutet told the ATP website. “It was a long time since I’ve played a match, especially in front of people. A tough match, but definitely a lot of pleasure.” Two Americans advanced, with fifth-seeded Tommy Paul beating Cameron Norrie 4-6, 7-6 (2) 6-3 and Mackenzie McDonald upsetting 14th-seeded Richard Gasquet 7-6 (2), 7-5.