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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.
 

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

Serena maintains perfect first-round record in Melbourne

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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.

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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.”

Serena maintains perfect first-round record in Melbourne

Video