Australian Open: Serena overcomes Bencic; Pliskova cruises

Serena Williams began her quest for a 23rd Grand Slam title in style Tuesday, overcoming the dangerous threat from Swiss star Belinda Bencic to power into the Australian Open second round.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams is pumped up after winning a point in the opening round of Australian Open on Tuesday.   -  Reuters

World No. 2 Serena Williams overcame a tricky first-round test at the Australian Open, seeing off talented teenager Belinda Bencic in straight sets.

Runner-up last year, Williams withstood the soaring temperatures and a late fightback in Melbourne to beat the 19-year-old Swiss 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday.


Up a set and 5-0 in the second, Williams watched Bencic rally to win three consecutive games but despite serving two double faults as she attempted to close out the match, the 22-time Grand-Slam champion was not to be denied, with Lucie Safarova awaiting in the next round.

There were question marks over Williams heading into the season's opening grand slam following a prolonged spell on the sidelines due to shoulder problems, while she suffered a shock second-round exit in Auckland in the lead up to the Australian Open.

READ: >Serena satisfied with opening round win

And the 35-year-old had her work cut out early as Bencic, who defeated the veteran American at the Canadian Open in 2015, earned two early break points on Rod Laver Arena. Williams, however, dug herself out of a hole by reeling off four consecutive points.

> Men's round-up: Nadal, Raonic advance


Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska survived a dogfight to move into the Australian Open second round on Tuesday as she bids to end her long wait for a maiden Grand Slam title.

The Polish tennis star battled past fellow veteran, Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 and will next play Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who beat Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang in three sets.


Lucie Safarova rode her luck en route to a remarkable victory when she saved nine match points before beating Yanina Wickmayer on Tuesday.

The Czech veteran saved five match points on her own serve in the second set and another four in the tiebreaker before winning 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 to reach the second round.

Belgium's Wickmayer looked crestfallen afterwards and said was feeling "definitely not good" after letting slip so many opportunities. "It's not fun," she said, adding: "I think she served very well on certain points and other points I didn't go for enough.

"She did well and I wasn't as aggressive as I should have been on the big points."


Fast-rising Czech star Karolina Pliskova breezed into the second round in straight-sets as she fired a warning shot to her Grand Slam rivals.

Ranked at a career-high five in the world, the tall and tattooed 24-year-old proved too hot to handle for Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo in blistering heat on Rod Laver Arena, thrashing the 106th-ranked Spaniard 6-2, 6-0. "I was a little bit nervous as the first round is always a bit tough and I'm happy to be through," she said. "I feel good on court and excited to be back in Melbourne."


British ninth seed Johanna Konta overcomes a stuttering start to defeat Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2 in 96 minutes as she begins her attempt to go one better than last year when she made the semifinals.

Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky, seeded 12, beat Italy's Camila Giorgi 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to get to the second round, where she'd meet Montenegro's Danka Kovinic.

Former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki cruised to round two, beating Australia's Arina Rodionova 6-1, 6-2.

An aggressive Naomi Osaka came back from a set down to beat Thailand's Luksika Kumkhum 6-7(2) 6-4 7-5 in two hours and 25 minutes. The promising Japanese youngster will face Konta in the second round.

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