WTA Yarra Valley Classic: Serena Williams downs Daria Gavrilova for strong start

Tennis - Serena lost five games in her first official match of the season

by Jovica Ilic
WTA Yarra Valley Classic: Serena Williams downs Daria Gavrilova for strong start

The 23-time Major champion Serena Williams kicked off the new season in style, beating Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-4 in the Yarra Valley Classic second round in an hour and 34 minutes. The Aussie, who had been struggling with injuries in recent years, gave her best in the second set to challenge a grand champion, only to suffer one break and hand the victory to the American.

Williams saved all four break points and earned three return games, enough to keep her safe and set the last 16 clash against Tsvetlana Pironkova. Serena endured three break points in the first game to avoid an early setback and took charge after that to storm towards the set with breaks in games four and six.

The second set was much more competitive, decided by that one break in the middle stages. Gavrilova closed the second set's first game with a service winner before Williams held at 30 in game two to level the score. Finding the range behind the initial shot, the Aussie fired another unreturned serve in game three to remain in front, already doing more than in the entire opening set.

Serena Williams is through to the last 16 at the Yarra Valley Classic.

Matching that pace, Serena closed the fourth game when Daria placed a loose drop shot and grabbed a break a few minutes later following a loose backhand from the home player at the net.

The American confirmed the advantage with a forehand drive-volley winner in game six that sent her 4-2 in front and closer to the finish line. Gavrilova survived the seventh game to remain within one break deficit and reached deuce on the return for the first time since the opening game a few minutes later.

Serena stayed calm and brought the game home, leading 5-3 and serving for the victory in game ten. The American sealed the deal with a powerful forehand down the line winner, notching the first official victory of the season following that Adelaide triumph over Naomi Osaka in three sets a couple of days ago.

Williams will have to work hard in the next match against Tsvetlana Pironkova, facing the Bulgarian at the last year's US Open and prevailing in three sets after a massive fight.

Serena Williams Daria Gavrilova