Auckland: Serena Williams mixed flashes of form and occasional bouts of frustration as she ended four months on the sidelines with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Pauline Parmentier on Tuesday in the first round of the ASB Classic.
Top-seeded Williams had to wait an extra day to make her first appearance of 2017 because rain forced the postponement of her first-round match on Monday.
It was wind rather than rain that troubled Williams on Tuesday as a swirling breeze on the open-air centre court at the Auckland Tennis Centre made it difficult to serve.
She took 74 minutes to beat No. 69-ranked Parmentier, serving eight aces – including one on match point – but also prolonging the match with a series of unforced errors, including four double-faults.
"You always feel rusty going out there for your first match," Williams said. "I definitely felt that rust but mentally I knew how to get it back and get in there.
"It was so windy out there but I guess in the wind you really have to be ready to move your feet, so I went to what my coach told me and I was like 'you know how to play in the wind, you've done it many times before,' so I just tried to adjust to it."
Williams made a shaky start, dropping serve in an opening game before Parmentier held her own serve to love. Williams seemed to find some form and confidence in the third game which included a booming winner from a crosscourt forehand. She broke Parmentier's serve in the sixth and eighth games and held comfortably, serving out the set in only 29 minutes.
There were signs of frustration from Williams as the wind picked up and she struggled to put her first serve in play. When she did, she won 80 percent of first serve points.
She broke Parmentier in the third game of the second set, then immediately lost her own serve. Williams struggled to hold serve in the sixth game, saving three break points, but she signalled her intention to finish it off quickly with two powerful winners which allowed her to break again in the seventh game.
Williams said she had learned in recent months to better cope with the pressure of expectation which comes with her every appearance on tour.
"It's something I feel like I'm dealing with better over the last few months and I hope to be able to deal with it better this year," she said.
Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki made a brief but impressive performance on centrecourt Tuesday, beating American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-0 in only 50 minutes to advance to the second round.
Wozniacki looked sharp and confident in her first appearance of 2017, living up to her third seeding behind Serena and Venus Williams. Venus was scheduled to make her first appearance later Tuesday against New Zealand wildcard Jade Lewis.