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Infosys | Officil digital innovation partner

Serena makes light work of Potapova

Serena Williams’ quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles trophy is off to a winning start at the Australian Open, following a straight-sets victory over teenager Anastasia Potapova.

Williams had never before fallen at the opening hurdle in Melbourne in 18 prior appearances and maintained her perfect record with a 6-0 6-3 triumph over the 18-year-old Russian.

Barring an early second-set blip on serve, her first outing on Australian soil for 2020 was passed with relative ease.

20 Jan 20
Anastasia Potapova v Serena Williams match highlights (2020 1st Round)

Serena maintains perfect first-round record in Melbourne


But the bigger picture was never far from mind.

Her 23rd Grand Slam title came at Melbourne Park two years ago, while eight weeks pregnant.

Since her return, the 38-year-old has come close to drawing level with Margaret Court’s mark.

Four times she has stood within one win of reaching it.

Four times she was soundly beaten.

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“I think it's factored a lot into my game, and now it's just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do,” Williams said of Court’s record.

“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.”

Even before a ball was struck, mum Oracene Williams was feeling the rhythm at Rod Laver Arena, throwing her arms in the air from her seat as she danced to the on-court music.

When her daughter strode onto court – her frilled warm-up kit billowing in the breeze – she too was feeling the rhythm from the get-go, thundering through the opening set in just 19 minutes.

The 90th-ranked Potapova was the world’s top-ranked junior just two years ago but against arguably the world’s greatest player, she looked hapless early on.

Her forehand was failing her – so too her serve – and it wasn’t until the eighth game that she finally got on the board.

With the pressure valve released, she conjured a break when Williams double-faulted for 2-1.

The momentum shift was fleeting. The American reeled off five of the last six games to book a showdown with Slovenian Tamara Zidansek on her ninth ace.

Anastasia Potapova in action against Serena Williams

After winning her first title since her return – in Auckland – last week, Williams admitted one small hoodoo had been lifted.

And that could play a major factor should she go on to reach a ninth Australian Open decider.

“I think so, yeah. I think, so to say, monkey off my back, kind of,” Williams said. 

“It was very important for me to get a win in the final. It felt like a relief … like I could move forward now.”