Serena Williams Breezes Past Tatjana Maria in Round 1 of 2019 Australian Open

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2019

United States' Serena Williams hits a forehand return to Germany's Tatjana Maria during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Serena Williams picked up right where she left off in her return to the Australian Open after missing the tournament in 2018.

The 16th-seeded Williams won her opening-round match against the unseeded Tatjana Maria in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, taking the first step toward a potential 24th career Grand Slam singles title on Monday at Rod Laver Arena.

It was the first career matchup between the two, and it went as expected considering the American is a seven-time Australian Open singles winner who reached the finals three straight years at this event from 2015 through 2017. Maria, by contrast, was unseeded.

As if her incredible list of accomplishments isn't head-turning enough, Williams won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant. However, she was unable to defend her crown in 2018 because she missed the tournament after she nearly died from complications following the birth of her daughter.

It was like she never left in her first match Down Under since the 2017 triumph.

Williams steamrolled her way through the first set in a stunning 18 minutes with ruthless efficiency. She won all three of the break points she created, quickly erasing any doubt about who would win the match.

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

6-0. 19 minutes. 9 winners. Lost 5 points. No mercy 😳 #AusOpen https://t.co/BNBeAY2FsK

It would have been difficult enough for Maria to beat the all-time great even if she played at her absolute best, but she was far from it in the early going Monday. She managed to make just two of her 15 first serves  in the first set and had 10 unforced errors in the brief six games.

She finished with 20 unforced errors in the match.

Williams was barely tested as a result and continued her dominance with an initial break in the second set to maintain full control in the straightforward victory. While Maria managed to hold serve for two games in the second set, she didn't have a counter when Williams served.

The American didn't overwhelm in the aces department with just two, but she controlled the pace with her power and precise placement and won 82 percent of her first-service points to ensure her overmatched opponent wouldn't have any chances to climb back into the match with any timely breaks.

That, along with her efficiency on her own break points in the overwhelming first set, was more than enough to propel her into the second round with an eye on an eighth Australian Open title.


What's Next?

Williams will play the winner of the first-round matchup between Eugenie Bouchard and Shuai Peng in the second round.

Past results suggest she shouldn't have much trouble in the next matchup either seeing how she is 2-0 in her career against Bouchard and 3-0 against Peng.


*All stats are courtesy of the tournament's official website.