AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — 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 center court at the Auckland Tennis Center 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.
“This wind was getting to me,” Williams said. “It’s like every day I’ve practiced here there’s been no wind and today I play and it’s real windy, so it was fun. It wasn’t fun, actually, it was interesting.”
Williams made a shaky start, dropping serve in an opening game before Parmentier held her own serve to love. But she seemed to find some form and confidence in the third game which included a booming winner from a crosscourt forehand.
Williams 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 also found herself out of position to play convincing groundstrokes as the wind carried the ball away from her racket. Williams’ backhand especially suffered, though she looked to move around the court freely.
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 breakpoints, but she signaled her intention to finish it off quickly with two powerful winners which allowed her to break again in the seventh game.
Only two main draw matches were completed on the rain-interrupted first day. In other matches Tuesday, Venus Williams was set to play New Zealand wildcard Jade Lewis and former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki was against Nicole Gibbs.