Serena through as Wozniacki falls at first hurdle
Playing in her first competitive match since the US Open in September, Williams defeated Camila Giorgi – the highest ranked unseeded player in the draw – in straight sets.
Williams, whose fitness was a cause for concern after she pulled out of the Hopman Cup in Perth with a knee injury, showed no signs of ailment as she defeated the Italian 6-4 7-5 in an hour and 45 minutes.
“It’s great. It was an hour and 43 minutes [sic] and I didn’t feel it at all,” Williams said of her knee. “I think I served well today. I got broken once, but other than that I was able to stay focused on that part.
“I have played her a couple of times before, and just wanted to be as consistent as I could. A for effort.”
Apart from a retirement against Jarmila Wolfe in Perth a fortnight ago and an off-season appearance at the IPTL (International Premier Tennis League), Williams has not played since her defeat to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals, two matches short of an historic calendar year Grand Slam.
Playing another Italian on Rod Laver Arena on Monday, Williams avoided another upset, and despite concerns over her left knee, says she is feeling refreshed after cutting her 2015 season short.
“I think I just needed a break,” said Williams, who will play Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round. “I have been going non-stop since the  Olympics in London, and seeing that this is another Olympic year, I kind of wanted to start the year out really fresh and really go at it again as hard as I can.
“I just needed that time to just recover and get really fit, and really train and get ready for the season.”
The defending champion in Melbourne, Williams would equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22nd Grand Slam titles with victory on January 30. The world No.1 will not face another seed until the quarter-finals at the earliest after the three other seeds in her bracket failed to win their opening round matches.
The biggest casualty of the opening day was No.16 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who lost 1-6 7-6(3) 6-4 to Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, while Sara Errani (17) and Anna Schmiedlova (27) lost their first-round matches against Russian opponents Margarita Gasparyan and Daria Kasatkina respectively.
No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska eased past Christina McHale 6-3 6-3, while Petra Kvitova eased concerns over her fitness with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum – who beat her at the same stage in Melbourne two years ago.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Carla Suarez Navarro, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Belinda Bencic, but Sloane Stephens – a winner in Auckland two weeks ago – failed to find a way past Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang.
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