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Williams brushes off cobwebs in Auckland

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/01/2017 Angelo Risso

The rust is off the world's finest ever women's tennis player.

Serena Williams put an inauspicious opening game behind her on Tuesday to win her first-round ASB Classic match against Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-4.

The world No.2 was expected to cruise through her lower-ranked French opponent but often found things heavy-going in Auckland, nailing less than half of her first serves.

A calamitous first game, in which the 35-year-old was broken after securing none of her first serves and double-faulting, also raised an eyebrow or two.

But the 22-time grand slam winner's class eventually shone through, saving herself on eight break points and producing a ground game far too powerful for her foe.

The windy and grey Auckland conditions also played their part in stifling Williams as she bedded into her first contest since last year's US Open semi-final.

"In the wind you really have to be ready to move your feet, so I went back to what my coach told me, that I know how to play in the wind, I've done it many times," Williams said.

"You always feel rusty going out there in your first match and I definitely felt that rust, but I felt that mentally I knew how to get it back."

With Parmentier 3-2 up in the first set, Williams broke back after winning a pair of long rallies and went on to win another three straight games to close out the set.

Having re-found her groove, Williams would have expected to run over the top of Parmentier in the second, but instead found herself in a close tussle.

Both players were broken in their second service games of the second set, as the world No.69 showed plenty of ticker to face down Williams' serving game.

Yet with the match poised at 3-3, Williams lifted to break Parmentier and then held the remainder of her service games to win 6-3, 6-4 in 75 minutes.

She'll now go on to face either Jamie Loeb or Madison Brengle in the second round.

Williams, who has been at the top of the tennis world for nearly 20 years, took an extended break at the end of 2016 in order to recharge for grand slams ahead.

She said the break had done wonders for her physically and mentally, allowing her to gear up for the Australian Open in tournaments such as the Classic.

But she was uncertain if she'd play more than eight 2017 events, having been notoriously fickle in her tournament selection in recent years.

"I have the highest of goals, obviously that involves winning grand slams and that's all, that's basically what I want to do," Williams said.

"But you have to do well in tournaments like this in order to do well in grand slams."

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