History-chasing Serena Williams has launched her 2021 tennis season with a trouble-free straight-sets win over Australian Daria Gavrilova at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne.
- Serena Williams won her first competitive match in over four months
- Daria Gavrilova joined fellow Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic in losing matches in the Melbourne Summer Series
- Bernard Tomic has withdrawn from the Australian Open warm up tournaments with an injury
Playing her first competitive match in more than four months, Williams hit the ground running in a 6-1 6-4 second-round victory at the Australian Open warm-up event on Monday.
“I felt like I was definitely composed and in the zone … it was good,” Williams said after the victory.
Hoping to match Margaret Court’s record 24 grand slam singles titles at this month’s rescheduled open, the 39-year-old American next plays Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova for a quarter-final spot.
Australian number two Ajla Tomljanovic also lost her Melbourne Summer Series match in three sets to Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Tomljanovic got off to a flying start before Cornet clawed her way back to eke out a 5-7 6-1 6-3 victory in a grinding contest on Margaret Court Arena.
Destanee Aiava, who burst on to the scene as a 16-year-old when she won a wildcard into the 2017 Australian Open — the first player born in the 21st century to play at a grand slam — had more success in her match at the Gippsland WTA tournament.
The now 20-year-old showed her array of talents against France’s Chloe Paquet with a 6-1 4-6 6-4 victory.
The victory puts Aiava on track for a third-round meeting with world number two Simona Halep, although first she must get past German veteran Laura Siegemund.
“I think I played as well as I could have,” she said.
“It was a tough first match and I obviously haven’t played in a while but I was just really excited to compete and get the win today.”
Ranked 218, Aiava said she had no expectations of herself for the grand slam but desperately wanted a first-round win.
“I do have a little bit more experience behind me playing in these WTAs and slams now and I’m feeling quite comfortable now, feeling like I belong here,” she said.
“This help with my AO preparation as well and that’s the main tournament I’m looking forward to but every win’s a great feeling.”
World number one Ash Barty is in action on Tuesday after a first-round bye and will take on Romanian world number 93 Ana Bogdan
Tomic out of Melbourne Summer Series
Bernard Tomic’s prospects of another deep Australian Open run have suffered a major blow, with the former Davis Cup star withdrawing from the Melbourne Summer Series.
Tomic was to have played fellow Australian Marc Polmans in the first round of the Murray River Open on Monday night but pulled the pin, citing an unspecified injury.
The one-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist posted three gruelling wins in the Middle East heat last month to be the only one of 20 Australian hopefuls to successfully make it through qualifying in Doha.
But two weeks in Tennis Australia’s Melbourne Park quarantine training bubble seemingly have not helped Tomic to sufficiently prepare for his only warm-up event.
Now ranked 229th, the one-time world number 17 has a big opportunity to climb back into the top 150 with a decent showing at the season’s first grand slam starting next week.
Tomic, who has made the last 16 of his home major three times, has no rankings points to defend after bombing out in the first round of qualifying last year.
Tomic’s scratching also cruels any chance of a spicy second-round Murray Open showdown with countryman Nick Kyrgios.
Harry Bouchier has replaced Tomic in the Murray Open draw, meaning Polmans’ match is still an all-Australian affair.