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Australian Open: Williams sisters both advance to open tournament play

Serena Williams of the US hits a return

Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Germany's Laura Siegemund during their women's singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 8, 2021.  Credit: AFP via Getty Images/WILLIAM WEST

MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams had a wobbly start at the Australian Open — for one game.

After briefly falling behind, Williams swept 10 consecutive games and beat Laura Siegemund, 6-1, 6-1, on the first day of the tournament Monday.

The victory marked the start of Williams’ latest bid for a record-tying 24th major title. As she left the court she flexed her biceps, and later she donned a T-shirt that read "Unstoppable Queen."

"This was a good start — vintage ’Rena," she said. "It’s definitely good. I’m pretty good at pacing myself at a Grand Slam."

Williams wore a colorful one-legged catsuit that she said was inspired by former Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner, and her game looked flashy, too. She lost only nine points on her serve and hit 16 winners, and showed no signs of the right shoulder issue that led her to pull out of a tuneup tournament.

She wasn’t the first Williams to reach the second round, however. Her sister, Venus, won a Grand Slam match for the first time since 2019.

Playing in her 21st Australian Open, the elder Williams beat Kirsten Flipkens, 7-5, 6-2.

At 40, Venus is the oldest woman in this year’s draw and just the sixth player in her 40s to compete at the Australian Open.

"I like my job," she said. "No matter what happens to you in life, you always hold your head up high and give 100 million%. And that’s what I do every single day, and that’s something I can be proud of."

Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, who won the title in Melbourne two years ago, played the opening match in Rod Laver Arena and beat Anastasia Pavlyu-chenkova, 6-1, 6-2.

The first tournament of this year’s Grand Slam season began after a three-week delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Physically I feel like everyone, their bodies are shocked, coming in and playing so suddenly after such a long break," Osaka said. "I think we’re all getting used to it and everyone is just happy to be here."

That includes the Williams sisters.

"Listen, this is amazing," Serena said. "Last year was very scary for the world. To be able to do what I love and be able to come out and compete . . . it makes me appreciate the moment even more."

Canadian Rebecca Marino, a former top-40 player competing in a Grand Slam event for the first time in eight years, beat wild-card entry Kimberly Birrell, 6-0, 7-6 (9). Marino was sidelined by depression and a serious foot injury.

No. 23 Angelique Kerber, a three-time major champion and 2016 Australian Open winner, lost to American Bernarda Pera 6-0, 6-4.

In early men’s play, No. 14-seeded Milos Raonic defeated Federico Coria, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. American Reilly Opelka hit 18 aces and beat Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

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