• Australian Open

Williams holds nerve to cruise through in Melbourne

ESPN staff
January 20, 2015
Serena Williams dominated the first set but was pushed by Alison Van Uytvanck in the second © Getty Images

Serena Williams claims to suffer from nerves and jitters before her first-round matches at the Grand Slams.

She certainly didn't show it Tuesday night en route to a 6-0 6-4 win over Alison Van Uytvanck at the Australian Open.

Dressed in a bright yellow and pink-trimmed outfit with a cut-out back, Williams won the first set in just 21 minutes before Van Uytvanck found her range and made the second set a lot more competitive.

The 18-time major winner has only once lost in the opening round at a Grand Slam tournament, and this is her 58th. One more Grand Slam title and she'll pass Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the all-time list of champions.

"If I could get to 19 in Australia that would be amazing," said world No.1 Williams, who won the last of her five Australian titles in 2010. This is the longest period she has gone without winning at Melbourne Park since she won her first title here in 2003.

Meanwhile, two-time champion Victoria Azarenka continued her comeback from a foot injury with a convincing 6-3 6-2 win over Sloane Stephens.

Limited to just nine tournaments last year, Azarenka's ranking has fallen to No.44, and she is unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2007 US Open.

Her Australian Open history with Stephens included the semi-finals in 2013, when Azarenka controversially took an extended injury timeout at a critical point late in the match.

"Sloane is a very tricky opponent. It's a great first round for me to really test my game," Azarenka said. "I'm happy with what I did today."

Azarenka next plays US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki, who beat 18-year-old American Taylor Townsend 7-6(1) 6-2.

No.11 seed Dominika Cibulkova, a finalist here last year, opened with a 3-6 6-3 6-1 comeback win against Kirsten Flipkens.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and No.6 seed Agnieszka Radwanska needed only 63 minutes for their straight-sets wins over Richel Hogenkamp and Kurumi Nara, respectively, while No.18 Venus Williams beat Maria Teresa Torro 6-2 6-2.

Samantha Stosur opened with a 6-4 6-1 victory against Monica Niculescu, and No.19 Alize Cornet had a 6-3 6-2 win over Zhang Shuai. No.24 Garbine Muguruza and No.25 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova advanced with straight sets wins, while Tsvetana Pironkova beat British No.1 Heather Watson 6-4 6-0.

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