by AFP/ pic by AFP
MELBOURNE – Serena Williams (picture) blitzed the first set in just 19 minutes as she launched her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title with a quickfire demolition of Anastasia Potapova at the Australian Open on Monday.
The 38-year-old American, wearing a lilac dress and matching trainers, and sporting heavily decorated fingernails, powered past the Russian teenager 6-0, 6-3 in 58 minutes.
The eighth seed plays Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in round two in an expectant Melbourne, where she can equal the all-time record of Grand Slam titles.
Williams comes into Melbourne in ominous form after breaking her three-year title drought with victory in Auckland – her first since becoming a mother to two-year-old daughter Olympia.
Olympia watched her mother win the title last week, and Williams said after easing to victory over Potapova: “It (Auckland) was really special for me and her (Olympia) – I hope for her.”
But the American legend, speaking to an adoring crowd at the 15,000-capacity Rod Laver Arena, admitted that Olympia “just cares about Play-Doh”.
“I try to tell her I’m someone, you know,” she joked.
“(But) I am just known about town as Olympia’s mom – I love that.”
Williams threatened to blow away the 18-year-old Potapova – who was temperamental at times – in embarrassingly rapid fashion.
But the 90th-ranked Russian, overawed in the first set, fought back and broke Williams’s serve in the second, helped by some sloppiness from the American.
Williams double-faulted to go down a surprise 2-1, but there was never a hint of an upset as the American broke back before pulling away to an easy win.
There is huge pressure on Williams as she eyes the record Grand Slam haul of Australia’s Margaret Court.
Since winning the title in Melbourne in 2017 she has lost four Slam finals, each time failing to even win a set.
Williams, the highest-earning female in sport, was pregnant with Olympia when she lifted the Melbourne crown three years ago.
There is a fierce focus on Williams’ latest bid for tennis history at the Australian Open, and she knows it.
“Now it’s just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do,” she said.
“Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion, and now how great is Serena Williams? That’s it.
“That’s kind of what I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks and months, it definitely helps me relax a lot.”
Williams laughed off a tweet by reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in which the 22-year-old posted a picture of them together and playfully described the American as “my mom”.
“Definitely not the mom, though, definitely more or less cousin?” said Williams.