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Australian Open 2016: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova off to winning starts

 

Australian Open 2016: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova off to winning starts Serena Williams dispelled any doubts over her fitness with a 6-4 7-5 win over Camila Giorgi in the Australian Open first round.

Maria Sharapova then romped to her own straight sets victory over Japan’s Nao Hibino later in the day, meaning a potential quarter-final against Williams remains on the cards.

The world No 1 Williams, who had spent four months away from the game and barely swung a racquet since the US Open last September, faced the highest-ranked unseeded player at a sweltering Rod Laver Arena.

Williams pulled out of her first match at the Hopman Cup in Perth earlier this month due to knee inflammation, but the 34-year-old moved freely during a testing opener against Giorgi and said it gave her no problems.

Showing none of the lethargy that has sometimes dogged her in early Grand Slam matches, a calm and focused Williams roared to a 4-1 lead as the temperature soared over 32 degrees Celsius.

The 36th-ranked Giorgi, a slightly built player packing a meaty forehand, steadied herself to drag Williams into a baseline battle and the American’s screams of frustration underlined a growing tension in the match. Australian Open 2016: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova off to winning starts

Though a match for Williams in terms of court speed and fire-power, Giorgi landed barely a third of her first serves and gave up the decisive break at 5-5 in the second set with her 12th double-fault.

Williams needed no further invitation and closed out the match with a customary barrage of booming first serves.

Williams, who next faces 90th-ranked Taiwanese Hsieh Su-Wei, insisted she had no fitness issues in the game. […]

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