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MELBOURNE, Australia — History-chasing Serena Williams has wasted no time finding her groove, dispatching Australian Daria Gavrilova in straight sets in her 2021 season opener at the Yarra Valley Classic.

Playing her first 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.

Hoping to match Margaret Court’s record 24 grand slam singles titles at this month’s rescheduled Open, the 39-year-old was delighted to be back on Melbourne Park’s arena named in Court’s honour.

“It feels good to be back here. It feels different to be playing here but not playing in the Australian Open yet,” Williams said of the unusual build-up to the season’s first major.

Six tournaments are running concurrently to allow the world’s elite tennis stars to gain some priceless court time following two weeks in quarantine.

“It’s still good because all of us players need to get out here and get to play and get some matches,” Williams said after her hour-long workout in which she served two aces and broke Gavrilova three times.

Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images

“I felt that I was definitely composed and in the zone and I was just trying to do the things that I’ve been working on so it was good.”

Earlier Monday, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-1, 6-4 in a first-round match at the Yarra River Classic, one of six tuneup tournaments being played this week at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open.

The first major of the year was delayed by three weeks to allow for COVID-19 protocols that required all people arriving into Australia to spend 14 days in quarantine.

The 11th-seeded Pavlyuchenkova has been a quarterfinalist in three of the past four years at the Australian Open.

In other first-round matches at the tournament, Nadia Podoroska beat Francesca Jones 6-1, 6-3, Camila Giorgi beat Clara Burel 6-4, 6-3, Alison Van Uytvanck swept Su-wei Hsieh 6-2, 6-0 and Vera Zvonareva beat Kristyna Pliskova 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

No. 13 Danielle Collins of the United States beat Nina Stojanovic 6-2, 6-1 in a second-round match.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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