WTA Yarra Valley Classic: Serena Williams to play Daria Gavrilova. Venus marches on



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WTA Yarra Valley Classic: Serena Williams to play Daria Gavrilova. Venus marches on

Venus Williams turned pro in 1994, and she is still among the most formidable competitors you can find on the Tour. The veteran kicked off the Yarra Valley Classic with a commanding 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Arantxa Rus in 65 minutes for a perfect start of the season.

Venus dropped only six points behind the first serve and saved all seven break points to mount the pressure on the other side of the net. Rus was far from those numbers, dropping almost half of the initial shot points and suffering four breaks to push Williams into the second round.

Venus saved those seven break chances in the opening set and grabbed breaks in games two and four for a comfortable lead. Rus barely won a point on the return in set number two and gave serve away twice to push Venus over the top.

The Bulgarian Tsvetlana Pironkova was even faster en route to the next round, toppling Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 6-1 in 62 minutes. The Bulgarian fired five aces and lost serve once, playing equally good on the return to grab five breaks and control the scoreboard from start to finish.

Venus Williams and Jessica Pegula are through to the second round in Melbourne.

Pironkova clinched breaks in games two and eight to wrap up the opener, gathering a boost and scoring three breaks in set number two to cross the finish line.

Jessica Pegula beat the 15th seed Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 22 minutes, winning 18 points more than the French player. Pegula saved three out of five break points and stole 55% of the return points to grab five breaks from ten opportunities.

Mladenovic raced into a 3-0 lead before the American rattled off 12 of the last 14 games to move over the top in style. Jessica couldn't find the rhythm behind the initial shot in the opening two service games, raising her level after that to melt the deficit and open a 4-3 gap.

Mladenovic saved three break chances in game eight to remain on the positive side before Pegula grabbed the last two games for 6-4. At 1-1 in set number two, Jessica shifted into a higher gear to race over the top, winning the last five games to celebrate the win in style.