BRISBANE, Australia (AFP): A pain-free Serena Williams sent an ominous warning to her rivals as she crushed fellow American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Brisbane International on Sunday.
Third seed Williams, 31, pulled out of an exhibition tournament in Thailand last week amid concerns she had not fully recovered from a recent foot surgery.
But she looked in great touch against Lepchenko, who was never able to trouble Williams after squandering five break points in the opening game.
The 15-time grand slam winner quickly found her groove as she romped away to win in 59 minutes.
Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova got her campaign off to an impressive start when she downed Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets.
Kvitova, the sixth seed, cruised through the first set and opened a 5-3 lead in the second, but was forced to hold off a Suarez Navarro fight back to win 6-3, 6-4 in 90 minutes. Poland’s Urszula Radwanska defeated Tamira Paszek of Austria 2-6, 6-0, 6-2, while Australian wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova upset Italy’s world number 16 Roberta Vinci 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to set up a clash with second seed Maria Sharapova.
Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova progressed after seeing off Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5, 6-2.
Hometown favourite Samantha Stosur plays her first match on Monday night against Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson, with the top two seeds Victoria Azarenka and Sharapova not playing until Tuesday.